Archive for November 18th, 2007

Uneven English Epic – Beowulf

November 18, 2007

Put this year’s 300 and 2001’s Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within together and you basically get Beowulf: an uneven animated movie full of dead-eyed, boastful shirtless guys. The comparisons don’t end there either.

Like Zack Snyder’s/Frank Miller’s 300 the story centers around an old civilization obsessed with heroism and glory. The men talk a lot, in really loud voices, about bedding wenches and bearing heirs – despite their longing glances at each other – and they take great, great, great pride in their killing arts. Beowulf (Ray Winstone) kills a lot and he’s not too shy to tell a souped-up story about his past victories. Similar to the cock-worshipping Spartans Beowulf wants his story told through the ages, long after his death in battle. The emphasis on storytelling would’ve been a nice bit of self-reflexivity if Leonidas and his THREE! HUNDRED! SPARTANS!!! DIDN’T ALREADY SAIL THAT BOAT.

And like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (I refer to this because I didn’t see Zemeckis’ previous animated effort – The Polar Express) it’s animated in an uninteresting, dull way (though I think Final Fantasy pulled it off better). Beowulf never leaps past the Uncanny Valley, especially in faraway shots where everyone looks like the video game characters they are. Close-up shots fare slightly better with more realistic detail in the skin, hair and clothing although their eyes are still dull doll’s eyes. This animation just isn’t interesting. It strives for realism but can’t achieve it. So, why?