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Beowulf (2007)

“The time of heroes is dead”

To be honest, it was the idea of a proper 3D film that got me into the theatre, opening night, to see Beowulf. To my great surprise and unwavering delight, the film proves itself to be more than pokes the eye, if you catch my drift.

The premise: The oldest English language poem turned into a movie using state-of-the-art motion capture technology and digital 3D. The film could have easily been an empty exercise in computer generated wizardry, but the filmmakers did not sell themselves short. They made a film of great depth and significance. Which despite its glossy, 3D paint job, stands up as a genuine cinematic experience.

At its core, Beowulf is about heroism. Throughout the film, the audience is presented with various notions on the nature of ‘heroism’. When we are introduced to Beowulf, he is gripped to the mast of his Viking vessel, standing, as it plows through wind, waves, and rain–He exclaims to his concerned friend Wiglaf, “The sea is my mother! She would never take me back to her murky womb!”

Beowulf is fearless.

When he and his fellow warriors strike land, Beowulf announces to its people, “They say you have a monster here. They say your lands are cursed. I am Beowulf and I’m here to kill your monster.”

Beowulf is courageous.

These are standard definitions of heroism. The character of Beowulf, however, is far more complex than a series of adjectives. As the narrative progresses, the layers of Beowulf’s proverbial armor are stripped, and what we are left with is a man whom the audience may or may not call heroic. This is the genius of Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman’s script; What could have been a conventional, badass, take on Beowulf purging evil from the lands, it choses to examine his heroism in relationship to the evil he is fighting. As you’ll discover, evil is not necessarily a hideous monster, but human fallibility. And so:

Beowulf is human.

Making use of legends, tall tales, folklore, and myths, Beowulf’s character, and the concept of heroism, is dissected before your eyes. While it is an unquestionable triumph in terms of digital cinema, it’s remains a visceral examination of the myth of hero. It is not only a breath-taking, visually stunning masterpiece of action cinema, it is legitimately thought provoking. A feast for not only the eyes, but the brain as well. That’s always nice.

I tell friends: I came for the 3D and stayed for the story. In fact, as proven by its DVD release, Beowulf is a film which could have been released without the 3D gimmick. In fact, I wish it had been, as people tend to remember it as some digital experiment rather than a proper film.

Beowulf doesn’t poke at your eyes, it pokes at your brain, and this is the reason Beowulf transcends its genre, into a meaningful piece of art.

– Alex Lyons

Alex Lyons studied English and History at the University of Guelph, where he acquired keen insights into late Victorian history, and its literature. This education, of course, serves no purpose here. Alex still lives in Guelph, and thinks of Jack the Ripper often.


Written by thesilentmajoritysays

February 27, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Posted in action, fantasy

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