Disappointment, part i.


I was looking forward to that film for ages.

It generally looks rather good. The proof is in a few of the faces (Beowulf, Hrothgar, Wiglaf) which are especially impressive, verging on photo-real. Others (Wealthow, Ursula) weren’t as convincing, and Grendel’s mum (Angelina Jolie) was good at a distance, but not so much up-close. I’m talking about her face, okay? There are a few Shrek-type moments, but I’ve a feeling they were ‘extras’ who were fully computer-generated rather than based on motion-captured actors. I can’t confirm that’s so, but it’s what it looked like to me.

I wish there was anywhere in NI where I could see the 3D version. But there’s not.

Beneath the surface, the writers (Gaiman and Avary) made some very interesting changes to the story. If you read over the Wikipedia page, you’ll find some debate and hand-wringing over this. In the source poem, Beowulf is a straight-and-dull action-hero type, but in this film he’s flawed and prideful, and it’s that pride that is his downfall, forming the thread that focusses and unites the three major sections of the plot.

Maybe I’m a bit of a philistine, but for me that makes for a much more interesting story. Tales of redemption are increasingly common in cinema, it seems, and this is a pretty good one. The way Grendel was played for sympathy (honestly, I think I wanted him to win) only strengthened this side of things.

So why am I disappointed?

Partly, I guess, because the film just didn’t live up to my anticipation. And partly because, despite all the great things about it, I felt at a distance from the action and the characters the whole way through. Maybe that’s a consequence of the motion-capture approach, I don’t know. I do have the feeling that the style was a strength - Ray Winstone’s voice was just right, but I don’t know if he’d have been as convincing ‘live’.

It was pretty good, but I can’t help wondering if it could have been so much more.