Friday, January 02, 2009

Beowulf

Interesting but ludicrous production design is realized in full-on 'uncanny valley' mode. The actors all look every bit the Maya mannequins that they are. The extras include some making-of from the motion-capture set, referred to in apparent lack of irony, the Volume. The pedantry is bottomless: filming is 'motion capture,' or 'mo-cap', or just 'capping'. Granted, there is no actual film involved and the term is descriptive but it still sounds ludicrous. The resulting performances are just hopeless. Brendan Gleason's real-life neck does more acting than his entire virtual render. Sorry, cappers, you are not ready for prime time.
There are high points: Crispin Glover's take on Grendel is good although the final result comes across as the zombie version of the love child between an Ent and the Elephant Man. From now on, I shall refer to Grendel as Zombie Entephant Man, or ZEM for short. Not really. There are scenes in mostly Old English which are nice but a bit spoiled by the inclusion of Modern English. The violence in the harrowing of Herot is horrific and beyond disgusting, which means that it is faithful to the tale. It is really gross, though. The production design is ambitious and imaginative and mostly misses the mark. This is EXTREME Beowulf! (Although not half as amusing as the heavy-metal Geats from Grendel and Beowulf.) Points should be awarded for including the dragon portion of the story. However, that was done better in Dragonslayer, subtexts and all. The dragon battle itself was more interesting when the dragon was a Hungarian Ridgeback and the enormous castle was Hogwart's. (Note to Peter Jackson: Zemeckis owes you a Coke for bogarting the finale to The Hobbit.)
The plot almost makes hay out of a bit of cleverness in regard to Grendel's genetics. But not quite. Everyone seems desperate to impose psychology on this story which it can't support.
Music by Alan Silvestri is thematically consistent with EXTREME Beowulf!which means that it is not merely loud and bombastic, it's so in your face that you want to run with wild wind from fen and moor to rock, stone and river to the hall so would broad doors break wide, there within make murder.

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