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Category:    Home > Reviews > Fantasy > Myth > Computer Animation > Large Frame Format > Beowulf – Director’s Cut: 2-Disc Unrated Edition (HD-DVD + DVD)

Beowulf – Director’s Cut: 2-Disc Unrated Edition (HD DVD + DVD)


Picture: A-/C     Sound: B+/B-     Extras: B-     Film: C+



There is no need to have a lengthy discussion on the film Beowulf, for what it has in visual appeal, it lacks in substance.  The film is awesomely gory and action filled; with triumphant battles, men being men, and every creature imaginable making an appearance.  Beowulf was a big hit in theaters and some compare the film to 300.  300 was no Casablanca, but to put 300 and Beowulf in the same league is a shame; and that doesn’t say much.  Beowulf is based on the epic poem by the same name.  The story starts as Beowulf (Ray Winstone) comes to a Danish village ruled by King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) and promises the people of the village that he will rid them of the evil Demon creature Grendel (Crispin Glover), which he does and is quickly sent on a second mission to kill Grendel’s Mother (Angelina Jolie).  So the epic journey begins and throughout the film the audience is thrown in and out of epic battles and epic gore as Beowulf becomes the hero he was meant to be.  That is the extent of the story; sad right?


This reviewer truly hoped to be impressed by Beowulf after all of the hype, but in the end it fell flat and can be best surmised as a good visual display of how far technology has come.  A good number of great actors star in the motion capture film such as Angelina Jolie, Crispin Glover, Anthony Hopkins, and Ray Winstone and they all seem to be wasted with the action focused storyline.  This reviewer can easily say, without regret,  that Beowulf could have been much more; it had the opportunity to take it to the next level and instead let the opportunity fade in to obscurity as a second rate action flick.  No depth and no soul; that was Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf.


The technical features on this HD release of Beowulf are stunning in some ways and disappointing in other realms.  The picture is presented in a clean, clear, crisp and basically every other word that describes clarity 2.35 X 1 aspect ratio.  The 1080p High Definition release is astonishingly clear and where as this reviewer has complaints about the actual visual direction of the film; its presentation on HD DVD is very nice.  The motion capture technology that was used to create Beowulf gave this reviewer worries from the beginning and many of those worries were realized.  The motions of the characters seem unbelievable, their limb movements are too exact, and their lips almost seem to not line up just right.  Where as there is a good deal of depth in the mystical creatures of Beowulf, as well as the scenery, the portrayal of ‘real humans’ is glossy and almost plastic-like (Michael Jackson anyone?).


All of these shortcomings, however, center on the art direction and director’s problems, not the HD presentation.  With all of this said, besides the clarity being great the colors are also balanced and light/dark issues are pretty much absent; which is surprising with so much of the film being set in the dark.  All of this praise for the picture is nice, but really would you expect anything less from a film that is not only presented in HD, but also is filmed solely digital CGI?  Where as the picture is close to perfect (though not exactly there) the sound could use a bit of improvement.  The sound is presented in a nice English 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus that is boisterous at times, but this reviewer often times found the sound being way too soft.  It failed to ‘pop’ at some integral moments and after hearing about the sound basically knocking peoples’ socks off in theaters, this 5.1 Dolby presentation fell a little short of expectations.  The anamorphically enhanced DVD with standard Dolby 5.1 is much weaker with a picture suffering major definition and Video Black issues, while the sound cannot handle the sound master that made it to IMAX presentations.


The extras are plentiful and somewhat interesting, but not all together there for this reviewer.  Some of the extras are only available on this HD release and are noted with the HD marks.  Extras include the following:


- Beowulf in the Volume

- Some Web Enabled features (not viewed by this reviewer)

- Deleted Scenes

- A Hero’s Journey: The Making of Beowulf HD

- Beasts of Burden: Designing the Creatures of Beowulf HD

- The Art of Beowulf HD

- A Conversation with Robert Zemeckis HD



There are a few more extras, but those listed above are the most notable.  Most of the extras center on the making of the film and quite frankly bored this reviewer.  There is only so much of actors in rubber suits, doing the motion capture experience that this reviewer could take.  Sure it was interesting to an extent, but in the end enough was enough.  The deleted scenes neither added nor detracted from the film experience, so they were worth a look but did not heighten the Beowulf experience at all.  The ‘designing the creatures’ featurette was a bit more interesting, but too short and it was more entertaining to watch the creatures in the film than actually watching them be made.  The conversation with Robert Zemeckis is slightly annoying to this reviewer, because he seemed somewhat smug and whereas this reviewer enjoyed his efforts with the Beowulf adaptation the film was just ok.  The extras were plentiful and slightly entertaining; nevertheless they were adequate at best.


If it was not for the insane amount of gore and the beautiful picture experience the film would not have gotten such a high rating from this reviewer.  Taking that into account, Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf is not totally in line with the epic poem it was based on and in many senses stripped the hero aspect of the journey away at the roots.  The men of the film are liars, pompous, and lack the aura of a hero; there seems to be no room for true heroes and that ruins the film’s experience to an extent.  Beowulf is supposed to be epic and big, and whereas Zemeckis covered the adventure aspect well enough, he lost the epic heart.  Action packed and nothing more, that is Beowulf.


For another version of the same story, try this link to the DVD of the live-action film Beowulf & Grendel:





-   Michael P. Dougherty II & Nicholas Sheffo


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