Robert Zemeckis‘s Beowulf is an exceptional film on its own terms, but the 3-D version I saw last night is, no exaggeration, something close to stupendous. Which naturally makes me regret having passed along an idiotic negative comment (originating from some Hollywood Foreign Press guy) last Wednesday. I’m not going to run a “review” until 11.12, but I have to at least correct the impression that this earlier item instilled, so I’m going to run portions of an e-mail I sent this morning to Beowulf exec producer and co-screenwriter Roger Avary.
“I’m not a huge fan of this type of film — animated sword-brandishing brawny heroes on mighty steeds fighting dragons, etc. — but Beowulf is really and truly something else. For me it’s a new permutation of movie thrills along with an underlying adult intrigue — a sense of spiritual complexity and even existential angst — that fortifies thematically.
“I found it far more exciting and complex in every respect than 300, a homoerotic meathead flick that I pretty much hated. Beowulf, however, is a fascinating story about a hero with feet of clay made into the most visually arresting and exciting adventure of this type I’ve ever seen.
“I was open-mouthed with awe at the amazing clarity of the 3-D aspects alone. Did Zemeckis really say that ‘to call performance-capture animation is a disservice to the great animators’? Is he nuts? This film is obviously animated through and through. It deserves the Best Feature Animation Oscar, bar none. I don’t care what anyone says — this is not live-action except in the most rudimentary sense of the physical acting aspects, which represent, in my view, a relatively small portion of the whole.
“If the Academy committee decides against qualifying Beowulf for the Best Feature Animation Oscar it at least deserves some kind of special Oscar for having moved the 3-D form forward to a vivid and spectacular new place. The 3-D is the absolute best I’ve ever seen, bar none. Light fills every corner of the screen, no soft or murky edge elements, wondrously sharp focus. What’s the precise name of the 3-D process exactly? It’s a definite improvement — far and away the best quality 3-D these eyes have ever beheld.
“The only thing that doesn’t quite work are the galloping horses — their forward movement lacks the fluidity and the biological muscular complexity of actual steeds.
“I’m amazed this we were shown the PG-13 version. It seemed kind of R-ish because of the dripping wet hot-bod Angelina scenes and two or three other sexual-content moments.”
“Tech aspects aside, Beowulf is much, much better than I expected. I thought I’d be slightly bored from wading through the usual dead spots a la 300 or the Rings trilogy…not! You and Neil Gaiman have written a very sharp, well-structured script that gets right down to it. No dullish exposition, no narrative flab, no philosophical geek-movie bullshit. Plus I love that it doesn’t fully explain the curse to the idiots in the audience.
“I was forced to read ‘Beowulf’ in ninth grade, and of course I paid as little attention as possible. I now realize it’s a very powerful and unusual story.”
Footnote: The vast majority of US theatres are going to show it flat, of course, but just under a thousand screens will be showing it in 3-D — the largest 3-D opening in history. No excuses, no evasions…it’s absolutely essential to see it in 3-D. “Flat” is for flatheads.