Thinking as a Hobby

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Imagine that someone assembled a group of top-shelf actors like Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, and others to put on a show based on a 1,000 year-old epic poem. Then imagine that their faces are all shot full of Botox, so that their voices range the full gamut of emotion while their faces look mostly paralyzed.

This is the new Beowulf movie in a nutshell.

That weird-ass mismatch between the rage, lust, sorrow, and other emotions in the actors' voices and the relative lack of emotion in their faces just doesn't work. It makes the whole thing seem fake. The special effects people try their damnedest, but there are just too many facial muscles involved in expressing emotion, and until they get that down, they're better off going with live actors or going the other way, with cartoonish representations. Bugs Bunny's face expresses way more emotion in an average cartoon than all of the characters in Beowulf put together.

But what about the story? Well, I hadn't remembered much of the original from my undergraduate courses, and that was probably a good thing. But the way in which they "reimagined" the story was pretty crappy. It's not a heroic story, but one about weakness, vanity, and the lust for power. But you can't see any of the characters struggling with their emotions, because their faces are mostly made of wood. That would leave the action, which mostly looks silly. When Beowulf is recounting a 5-day swimming race in which he is attacked by sea creatures, there's a point at which he is swallowed by one, before bursting out of it's eyeball and screaming "I AM BEOWULF!!!" I don't think it was supposed to be campy, but I laughed out loud.

None of the action looked realistic in any way, and I really wondered what the film might have been like if they had shot it live-action with CGI for the monsters and demons. I think it would have been way better.

And finally, Roger Ebert has said much about the rating this film got, a PG-13. No fucking way was this movie a PG-13. There are tits and ass galore, jokes about cumming and gobbling cock, and scenes where men are literally ripped in half and chewed up while they're screaming. I don't care if it's a cartoon, that movie should have been rated R.

Anyway, overall it was a huge disappointment. Zemeckis used to be one of my favorite directors, but he really started to go downhill with Castaway, and the slide continues. On the upside, there are some interesting new movies in the pipeline for the holiday season, and some of them have to be better than this mess.

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