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Director Robert Zemeckis uses the same digital motion capture technology in The Polar Express to adapt the classic tale of Beowulf.

Movie Review: Beowulf – Classic Meets Modern Technology

“Remember me not as hero…but someone fallible”

Director Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away) uses the same digital motion capture technology in his holiday epic, The Polar Express, to adapt the classic tale of Beowulf. Zemeckis and his talented filmmaking crew create a high-octane adventure – strong on character, plot, and visuals. The cast provide voice and movement in demanding roles requiring screen presence and talent – luckily this great cast has both.

Ray Winstone (The Departed, Sexy Beast and the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) plays the warrior Beowulf, who arrives in the kingdom ruled by Hrothgar, played by Anthony Hopkins, to battle the tragically antagonistic creature Grendel. Played by the always eccentric Crispin Glover (Back to the Future), Grendel is a memorable foe, but filmmakers desperately need subtitles for his dialogue scenes.

The always stunning Angelina Jolie plays Grendel’s Mother, a villain who uses all her resources to promote evil. John Malkovich (Eragon, Con Air) plays King Hrothgar’s trusted council Unferth. He slithers and maneuvers to gain advantages, yet develops some admirable traits that cause him to unknowingly play a key role in the tragic plot.

Brendan Gleeson (Troy, Braveheart) plays Beowulf’s most trusted friend Wiglaf who shares these amazing adventures first hand. Robin Wright Penn (Forrest Gump) plays the main female character, Queen Wealthow. She contends with the male characters’ indiscretions and deep secrets. Penn also lends her voice in some memorable songs that enhance the action-filled plot.

Filmmakers create some amazing action sequences while pushing the envelope with content, which could further the case for a rating between PG-13 and R. This technology opens possibilities for action sequences and camera shots that would be impossible in the “real world”. The creature related action sequence near the end of the film eclipses several other fantasy/action films.

Filmmakers have full license to utilize the special effects filled medium while incorporating these elements into the story. An earlier sea sequence seems so fantastic that the audience might question the narrative source – Beowulf. Audiences remember this intriguing element throughout the plot where Beowulf later seems to have the ability to fulfill his boastful tales.

Screenwriters Neil Gaiman (MirrorMask) and Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction) adapt the original source material, which contains more than 3,100 lines of classic literature. This duo weaves some nice layers into the main plot developing Beowulf’s character as he picks and chooses who to share key information with.

Composer Alan Silversti (What Lies Beneath) composes an outstanding musical score. Silversti also collaborates with premier music producer Glen Ballard on the film’s songs. Look for “A Hero Comes Home” to get an Oscar nomination for best song. Recommended and rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sexual material and nudity. Also playing in 3-D and IMAX theaters.

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