tek's rating: ½

Beowulf (PG-13/unrated)
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Caution: spoilers.

This is a 2007 motion capture CGI thing, of a style that in some other movies is much more "uncanny valley" than it is in this movie. I did get a slight feel of that in the beginning, but I got used to it. Still, it's a bit weird because I don't remember thinking of this as an animated movie prior to my viewing of it (in 2013). I probably knew it was, but still... eh, I'm forgetful. And anyway... it almost looks real. Sort of. I guess. Or not. Whatever. Anyway, it is of course based on an epic poem from a bunch of centuries ago, which I know I read at least part of in some literature class, though I don't remember if it was in high school or college. And I don't really remember any details of the original story, but it doesn't matter, because a great many liberties have been taken in the movie. Which is fine, because it's the kind of story that's sort of supposed to be embellished with each retelling. I guess.

Anyway... it's set in Denmark, and it begins in A.D. 507. A bunch of people are partying in a mead hall belonging to King Hrothgar. And apparently the noise they're making causes pain to a hideous monster named Grendel, who shows up and kills a bunch of people. We just see one instance of this, but apparently it happens repeatedly over several nights or whatever, and Hrothgar orders the hall closed. But he's also hoping for some hero to come and kill Grendel. And soon, a ship full of Geats arrives. (They were like a Germanic tribe. From Sweden. I guess.) They're all great warriors, and the greatest of them is Beowulf, who promises to kill the monster. So Hrothgar has the mead hall reopened, and they all make merry for some time. Oh, and Hrothgar was once a great warrior, himself, but now he's an old man... with a much younger wife, Wealtheow. She isn't interested in sleeping with her husband, but it's not because he's old, nor is it that she doesn't love him. But he has a dark secret, which he had told her at some point (a secret that's pretty easy to guess). Anyway, now Wealtheow and Beowulf are immediately attracted to each other. But I don't think they'd act on it.

Well, Grendel finally shows up and kills some people, but is defeated by Beowulf. So he slinks back to his cave to die. However, the next day a bunch more people are found dead, and Hrothgar tells Beowulf that they were killed by Grendel's mother. So the hero goes to the cave to kill her, as well. But she's played by Angelina Jolie, so of course there are things he'd rather do with her than battle. We don't actually see what he does, though, and when he returns to town, he claims to have killed her. It doesn't seem as if Hrothgar believes him, though he doesn't actually call him a liar. Instead, he tells everyone that after he's dead, Beowulf will be king. And then he kills himself.

So, many years pass, and Beowulf is now an old man, himself (though still a formidable warrior). He's married to Wealtheow, though he apparently has had numerous mistresses (only one of whom we see). And um... eventually a dragon attacks and kills lots of people, so Beowulf will have to deal with that. I don't really want to give away any more of the story, but I will say I found it interesting how history repeated itself in some ways. Some people might think the latter part of the movie was unnecessary, that it could have ended with Beowulf defeating Grendel and becoming king. But personally, I liked the latter part of the movie better, with the hero being older and wiser and having learned to regret things he did in his youth, and feeling the need to atone for those things. The action scenes in both parts of the movie were pretty badass, which is important, but I thought the personal drama was more compelling than the action. And the drama in the second half was just better than the drama in the first half. Um... so what else can I say? There were a couple of characters I should have mentioned, like Beowulf's right-hand man, Wiglaf. And a guy named Unferth, who I guess was the greatest of Hrothgar's warriors, or something, so when he first met Beowulf he antagonized him; though they came to respect each other eventually. Also I guess Unferth had adopted Christianity, unlike anyone else in the kingdom. (Religion plays a minor role in the story, but it's vaguely important for understanding how the world was changing by the latter part of the movie.)

And I guess that's all I can tell you. I kind of felt like I should have liked the movie more than I did. The animation was decent and the action was decent and the drama was decent, but I just never managed to get into it as much as I'd hoped, and I'm not quite sure why.


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