"Beowulf" opens in theaters today in as many theater-screen formats as are possible at the moment, which includes traditional 2-D, 3-D and 3-D IMAX.
That last one blows up all the bloody action to an inescapable, in-your-face, 70 mm experience, by the way.
The much-hyped, animated adventure is more stylish than substantive, and it fails to impress the way it should. All the digital bells and whistles in the world can't conceal how hollow the movie is at its core or make us forget about its storytelling and dialogue deficiencies.
Also, it should be noted that "Beowulf" pushes its PG-13 rating, with gory, violent content, animated nudity and surprising sexual material. (Apparently, there are things you can get away with in an animated film that you can't in a live-action feature.)
Here, filmmaker Bob Zemeckis adapts the epic poem about a Danish kingdom under siege. The ruler, Hrothgar (the voice and likeness of Anthony Hopkins), is hoping to find a hero who can stop the monstrous Grendel (Crispin Glover), who has been murdering his warriors.
He finds that hero in the person of Beowulf (Ray Winstone), who mortally wounds the creature by ripping off its arm. But in doing so, he enrages Grendel's even-more dangerous, seductive mother (Angelina Jolie).
Director Zemeckis employs the same combination of motion-capture technology and digital animation that he used for "The Polar Express." But subsequent "improvements" in that technology still result in animation featuring rubber-faced characters with dead, lifeless eyes and video-game movements and action.
And the dialogue sounds like it was ripped straight from this year's overblown "300." You expect better from novelist/comics writer Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary, who scripted this adaptation.
You also expect better things from Winstone, who was so good in a supporting role in last year's Oscar winner, "The Departed." Here, he simply sounds like he's aping Gerard Butler, also from "300" (especially the blustery bellow of his line delivery).
The only ones who sound like they're having fun are Glover (creepy as ever), Brendan Gleeson and John Malkovich, who voice Beowulf's most trusted adviser and a duplicitous court lackey, respectively."Beowulf" is rated PG-13 for strong, sometimes disturbing violent action (creature attacks, dismemberings, sword play, arrow fire, fiery mayhem and violence against women), gore, blood and goo, male and female rear nudity, suggestive sexual language and references, scattered profanity and brief sexual contact. Running time: 114 minutes.
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