Beowulf movie poster
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Beowulf movie poster

Beowulf Movie Review

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I just watched Beowulf, and I have to wonder: why does Robert Zemeckis love this animation style so much? As my roommate describes it, Beowulf is like watching a serious version of Shrek. There are times when the characters look pretty much identical to Princess Fiona, and we're supposed to take this movie seriously?

To give the visuals credit, for what they are, they are quite nice. There are times, especially at night or in the rain, where you can't even tell you're watching a cartoon. Some of the character detail is very impressive. However, if you're going to spend $150 million on a movie, why, why, why, why, why not do it with real actors and authentic visual effects? I would understand the chosen approach if it saves you $100 million to produce, but done right, Beowulf could have been made for $60-$100 million and earned twice that in theaters. The visual effects completely distract from the dramatic impact of the film, and, in reality, when the CGI shifts from the characters to the scenery and monsters, the effects just aren't that good. It appears that so much effort was spent on making the people look good that Zemeckis and his team forgot to spend any money on the general special effects, such as the dragon and Grendel the troll. In the day and age of The Lord of the Rings, people expect authentic-looking creatures, and Beowulf just doesn't deliver.

To focus on Grendel, the troll just looks terrible. He looks like something pulled out of a Saturday morning cartoon. The creature design is God-awful and not even remotely intimidating, and whoever thought this creature would work should have been fired on day one.

Aside from the visuals - and it's hard to separate the visuals from everything else - the movie is decent. It's moderately entertaining, but the drama is so diluted by the distracting special effects that it's impossible to really get involved with the characters. None of the characters, including Beowulf, are particularly likable, and Zemeckis never develops them enough to allow the audience to get over that obstacle. Furthermore, if the intent of Beowulf was to be serious and believable, Zemeckis shouldn't have littered the story with so many unintentionally goofy moments.

Beowulf has its moments, but for the most part it's so full of distracting elements that it's really hard to take seriously. The special effects aren't that good and the screenplay isn't strong enough to overcome that. The studios have to put a stop to Zemeckis' crazy streak with this animated style, as it really is killing his career, if it hasn't already. Beowulf is an unintentional joke.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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