Monday, December 10, 2007
Yesenia & I saw this today, in IMAX 3-D. Specifically went out of our way to see it thus, because of our experience with Robert Zemeckis' last motion-capture extravaganza, The Polar Express. We'd seen that one in IMAX 3-D as well, and throughly enjoyed it. We only realized just how lame it was as a film when we watched it on DV a couple of times - the huge frame and the seamless 3-D effects had successfully glossed over the empty product within. But I still wanted to see Beowulf, and I knew that even if the film itself were bad, at least the ride of viewing it at the IMAX would be a thrill in itself.
And the review?
I think I liked it a lot. I mean, I did like it a lot, but as noted with the anecdote above, I can't be sure how much of that good feeling is simply because of the overwhelming IMAX experience. Sure, the script was better than The Polar Express, but...
...anyhow, on a purely visual level, in 3-D, it's an achievement. Sure, there's a lot of uncanny valley stuff going on here - you're totally aware that these aren't real people you're watching, despite the incredible texture mapping going on here. But that may be how they get away with having Angelina Jolie walking around in the buff for minutes on end. But the rest of the environment and the non-human characters escape that and are pretty stunning as a result.
Grendel is deeply, deeply fucked-up on every possible level: crazy design work that's truly monstrous (a twenty foot tall living corpse with many, many - er- extra openings in his body), punishingly well-animated (hyper-fast movements and lingering takes) and matched with genuinely creepy voicing from Crispin Glover, squealing and bellowing in Old English, in marked contrast to the straight-up english everyone else is speaking. An amazing creation.
Many people would say the film is long enough, but I found I could have used a few extra minutes between the second act and the third, which is a thirty-year flash-forward to the end of Beowulf's reign. But the story is good, and the dialogue is particularly strong, and the film is so over the top that, as Ebert says, "You can't even see the top from here." A visceral entertainment with surprising brains and heart, all the more surprising because of how precision-tooled a technological wonder it really is.
So, go... but don't take any young kids. Grendel is pure nightmare fuel.