The film opens in 6th century Denmark, where King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) and his young queen (Robin Wright Penn) are playing host to a party for their warriors. While everyone is feasting and boozing, in breaks Grendel (Crispin Glover), a giant, horrific monster. Needless to say, the party is quickly over: Grendel demolishes the place, taking many of the King's men out of the picture - permanently.
The King sends out word that he will give half of his gold to whoever can destroy the creature. In comes Beowulf (Ray Winstone), a warrior from far-off lands who is mainly concerned with killing the monster for glory, not for the gold. Despite warnings and a doubter or two, Beowulf's men drink and feast upon their first night in the castle, which results in a return visit from the beast.
Needless to say, things don't exactly go well for some of Beowulf's men, but he manages to fare better against the beast. However, it's not that easy, and Beowulf soon finds that he must face even greater challenges. The picture's story is rather basic and (at 114 minutes in this extended/unrated version) and, while never really boring - does seem to be stretched a tad thin.
What the picture lacks in character development and depth (although it's not too bad in either department), it mostly makes up for in strong performances and solid casting. The performances are quite enjoyable, especially Winstone, who is more than believably commanding in an intense and powerful performance. Angelina Jolie is also wonderfully creepy and seductive in the role of Grendel's mother.
The animation does see some improvement over "Monster House" and "Polar Express", but it still falls just a few notches short due to characters that can seem a little too wooden here-and-there. Overall, the animation does look better, but there's still those moments where characters or their movements can seem a little stiff and unnatural. In terms of backgrounds, the animation does impress, as the picture certainly does have an enjoyable feeling of size and scope.
Am I going to remember much about this film a few weeks from now? Probably not. However, "Beowulf" is one of those instances of a movie that was certainly entertaining from open to close, and I liked the performances.
This unrated director's cut of the picture does not have much in the way of differences, as the picture runs 114 minutes versus the theatrical's 113.
VIDEO: "Beowulf" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by Paramount. This is an excellent transfer of the material, as the picture looked rock-solid throughout the majority of the running time. Sharpness and detail remained terrific, as the picture appeared both quite smooth and quite detailed. No noticable edge enhancement was seen, but I did spot a slight instance or two of artifacting. Colors remained subdued, but appeared accurately presented. Overall, this was a marvelous effort from the studio.
SOUND: As one might expect, the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is certainly an aggressive effort, with frequent surround use to deliver intense sound effects and reinforcement of the score. The audio is also given a wide spread across the front soundstage, as well. Audio quality is marvelous, with bassy sound effects and dialogue that sounds crisp and full.
EXTRAS: "A Hero's Journey: The Making of Beowulf" runs a little over 22 minutes and contains interviews with director Robert Zemeckis (who looks and sort of sounds like Drew Carey - I don't know why I never noticed that before) and members of the cast and crew. It really is quite remarkable to see the actors on a little stage that's rocking back and forth and then see the remarkable, epic and animated end result. It's also impressive to see how things like props and "sets" are handled and organized.
"Beast of Burden" looks into the design of the film's monsters and runs about 7 minutes. "The Origins of Beowulf" runs about 5 minutes and looks into the history of the story, as well as thoughts on adapting the picture from Zemeckis, writers Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery, as well as other crew members. "Creating the Ultimate Beowulf" is a short piece (just a couple minutes) looking at character designs. We also get 6 (unfinished) deleted scenes (no commentary), the trailer and a short featurette on the look and design of the film, as well as how 3-D was used in the theatrical release.
Final Thoughts: Am I going to remember much about this film a few weeks from now? Probably not. However, "Beowulf" is one of those instances of a movie that was certainly entertaining from open to close, and I liked the performances. The DVD presentation offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. Recommended.
The Film B