BEOWULF: DIRECTOR’S CUT (Paramount, 2007) D: Robert Zemeckis, w/ Ray Winstone, Angelina Jolie. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
There’s a fine line between breathtaking epic fantasy and overwrought kitsch. Ray Winstone and company find that line and trample it into dust with gravel-voiced scenery-chewing so far into parody that I kept waiting for someone to say, “Aaar, matey. ” Except for John Malkovich. He delivers his lines like he’s channelling John Cleese in Monty Python’s parrot sketch.
The making-of docs point to the problem. This is a motion-capture movie. The whole shoot was actors decked out in wetsuits with coloured dots all over them, waving around day-glo wire framework props. They look silly and, if star Winstone is to be believed, they feel silly.
Everything onscreen is computer-generated, and much of it is lovely. Pity they couldn’t get the skin to look more like skin and less like clay.
In 3-D on the IMAX screen, bad line delivery and worse skin tone were minor annoyances, barely noticeable beside the real show: Doug Chiang’s gorgeous production design and the glorious monsters. His Grendel, the monster ripping apart King Hrothgar’s men whom Beowulf has come from afar to kill, looks like no other creature ever put on film. (He’s voiced like no other, too: Crispin Glover gives a brilliant performance.)
Savouring Chiang’s Frank Frazetta-influenced visuals on pause may be the second-best way to watch this. The best would be to kill the sound, hit the subtitles and crank up your favourite Wagner or metal tracks.
EXTRAS Five making-of docs. Widescreen. English, French, Spanish audio and subtitles.