‘Beowulf’ is a step back for digitally animated films

Alissa Wisniewski

Not every classic fiction story makes for a good action film, but the story of the hero Beowulf had potential.
In his cinematic reproduction of the Old English folk tale “Beowulf”, Director Robert Zemeckis fuses cartoonish animation with actual actors, which diluted the impact of the plot and characters. The actors look like molded Jell-O figures who stumbled around unable to show emotion. It made this important tale seem less important.
Writers Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman didn’t stray far from the original plot. Beowulf’s is a classic hero’s story. Hero promises to kill monster, hero kills monster, hero gets girl and hero dies an admirable death. In this case, Beowulf (Ray Winstone) is the hero and there are a slew of town-terrorizing monsters, beginning with Grendel (Crispin Glover), graduating to Grendel’s mother (Angelina Jolie) and ending with a dragon.
Beowulf’s fight with Grendel saw the hero strip down to his birthday suit, opening the door for some potty humor. Random objects were strategically placed around the mead hall to cover Beowulf’s not-safe-for-a-PG-13-movie bits. The acrobatic battle that ensued invoked Saturday morning cartoon sessions as Beowulf somersaulted through the rafters and Grendel awkwardly jerked his limbs while trying to swat the man.
Clearly unsatisfied by his fight with Grendel, Beowulf goes after the beast’s mother. Upon entering her lair, the audience is faced with a nearly naked Angelina Jolie. Beowulf is no match for her nakedness, as he is seduced by the “monster” and unable to kill her. How he is seduced is a mystery since the ridiculous animation made her as appealing as a Barbie doll.
Now the weary king of the town he saved from these monsters, Beowulf is attacked by a dragon. Despite his gray hairs and defeated demeanor, he decides to fasten his armor one last time to slay the dragon.
What saves the film from the horrid animation and average plot is the 3-D it’s portrayed in. I felt embarrassed more than once as I jumped to avoid a rogue water droplet or jerked my hand out, wanting to stroke a merry man’s beard. As the dragon sprayed fire from his mouth, I wanted to duck so he wouldn’t singe my eyebrows.
A more serious adaptation would have been better suited for “Beowulf”. The film didn’t pack any dramatic punches, didn’t make you feel anything for the characters.
There was no sitting on the edge of your seat or emotional investment in the outcome. Since we can’t give the anonymous writer who first penned “Beowulf” actual recognition, we should at least give him or her a proper film adaptation.
The writer deserves that.