700 A.D. is now 21st Century American 3-D. It's a hell of a transformation.
As a would-be litterateur, I should be aghast at what has become of Beowulf, which was once the bane of English majors. At least some of us. But as a film fan, I admire the movie. It's a lot more fun.
There are three versions of Beowulf. There's the I-MAX 3-D version, the non-I-MAX 3-D version, and the regular 2-D version.
Beowulf is an amusement park of a movie. But the regular 2-D version is just a ride on the merry-go-round. The 3-D version -- the one you must see if you see the film -- is a wild roller coaster ride.
I saw Beowulf at a ravemotionpictures theater, part of a chain recently emanating from Texas. It was DLP (Digital Light Processing) projection. There is one Rave theater complex in Arkansas, but only in Little Rock.
Beowulf is the tale of a hero (Ray Winstone) who comes to help Danish king Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins), whose kingdom and mead hall have been assaulted by the vicious dragon Grendel.
Beowulf defeats Grendel. After Beowulf declares mission accomplished, he meets Grendel's mother (Angelina Jolie), who is seductive and dangerous, and she enthralls and curses him. The corrupted hero fights to regain his lost decency. This leads to an ultimate battle.
Beowulf has a lot of depth of image, but not much depth of thought. However, director Robert Zemeckis and screen-writers Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary seem dedicated to having a good time.
Their dialogue is campy -- "I am ripper, tearer, gouger. I am Beowulf!" And some of the scenes are over the top. The scenes in the mead hall, led by the randy king, are like a frat party.
But there's visual wonder in Beowulf. The 3-D effects often are brilliant. Sparks fly, coins roll into the audience, spears are thrust, splashes come off the screen -- mead spills, dragon's saliva drips, rain courses, buckets of water are thrown, bubbles in the sea percolate and blood gushes.
There are tour de force sequences, such as when Wycliff (Brendan Gleeson) gallops across a burning bridge. The climactic encounter between Beowulf and a dragon is spectacular.
Beowulf is a visual classic comic. It's not serious literture. It's pop culture pulp. But the 3-D gives it style and panache.
Director Zemeckis did the logy The Polar Express (2004). He has improved his style vastly. The Polar Exprss was a sober Christmas tale; Beowulf has more vitality. Fortunately Zemeckis doesn't fall in love with his effects. His battle scenes are not seemingly endless, as they were in the epic The Lord of the Rings.
Zemeckis's animation uses the images of recognizable actors and their actual voices. Roy Winston is able as Beowulf, and Anthony Hopkins is the raucous king. Robin Penn Wright is the queen both men love. Unrecognizable Crispin Glover is the repulsive Grendel.
The movie Beowulf is enticing. I went to a movie, and a video game broke out. It was a game I had a great time playing.
For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).
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