Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
USA, 2007. Paramount Pictures, Shangri-La Entertainment, ImageMovers. Screenplay by Neil Gaiman, Roger Avary, based on the epic poem by Anonymous. Cinematography by Robert Presley. Produced by Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis. Music by Alan Silvestri. Production Design by Doug Chiang. Costume Design by Gabriella Pescucci. Film Editing by Jeremiah O’Driscoll.
It’s no easy task making something entertaining out of the English language’s earliest known narrative work, so don’t be too harsh on Robert Zemeckis if he doesn’t quite reach the target here. In this adaptation of the Scandinavian myth that predates all known literature, a village is besieged by the monster Grendel, who attacks and kills people every night while the king (Anthony Hopkins) makes merry in his hall.
Handsome hunk Beowulf (Ray Winstone) comes from afar and kills the beast, then sets after its sexy dragon mother (Angelina Jolie) and comes back claiming to have killed her too. Whether or not he did is the reality that catches up with him years later, when he is an old man who has been reigning as king of the land with his predecessor’s beautiful wife (Robin Wright).
Although the film used real actors on real sets, it’s all been overlayed with computer animation much like Zemeckis’s previous effort The Polar Express, with many of the actors appearing as themselves (though Winstone definitely doesn’t).
Screenwriters Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary should be credited with doing just enough tweaking to make the tale entertaining to modern audiences without pandering to current sensibilities, but the overall effect is hollow—the main character is never more than a symbol of storytelling, and his quest never becomes a matter of emotional necessity. Still, the animation is gorgeous and the climactic dragon chase is terrific.