"Zemeckis’ “Beowulf”loses the poetry of the great poem in it’s translation to
the 3-D digital motion-capture technology to the screen.The look of the past can
be replicated in the images,but not the essence of the vision,the ancient stones,the sacral light,the fantastical elements wrapped up in the mythopeic universe.These
myths are an essential part of a tragic tale whose theme is:man at war with a hostile world and his inevitable defeat by Time.The poem was recalling a pagan past but from the perspective of a Christian worldview but the poet still celebrates its vanished power,in which fate rules all and man’s courage alone confers nobility.In the new world death and defeat are ultimately defeated by Christ:”The time of heroes is dead,
the Christ God has killed it,leaving humankind with nothing but weeping martyrs,
fear and shame”.The thousand year old poem was itself looking back at a lost world.
The poem captures this unbearably moving disenchantment.Splinters of that primordial light are embodied in the myths of the poem.
There is an excellent cast of actors.Ray Winstone a gutsy if cockneyfied Beowulf,
Anthony Hopkins seems almost fully realized as Hrothgar,Angelina Jolie as the
seductive monster’s mother,who slept with the old king and also seducing Beowulf,
Malkovitch is perfectly cast as Unferth(dead eyes to match),Crispin Glover as the pitiable Grendel,who brings terror to the mead hall and lastly Brendan Gleason as Wealthow,Beowulf’s second in command.Beowulf is vain,proud and boastful.He comes to Denmark from Geatland(Sweden) to kill the voracious monster ravaging
the Viking land.There is much gore and violence,digitized cleavage and a naked Beowulf.Zemeckis’ Beowulf departs from the original story in order to tie up lose threads and generate narrative continuity and tension.Beowulf has to change,be something other than just a brave and virtuous hero.The movie’s solution is to have Grendel’s mother corrupt him by playing a sexually powerful witch-woman.Beowulf
pays the penalty when he atones for his sins 50 years later.He is the monster of his pride:” We men are the monsters now”.He atones for his sins by fighting the evil dragon in a climactic battle that results in his death.
“Beowulf” fails because it it does not create a mythical universe.It has no transfiguring vision. It seizes upon an ancient tale,whose invisible roots run deep in
our psyches, and uses it to construct an entertainment of computer game
proportions.It pulls a tame story out of a wild fable,it decouples the cosmology of
a myth producing high-tech kitsch,without the depth of those dim and distant realms.
The funeral of Beowulf should be like the echo of an ancient dirge,a memory brought over the hills,far-off and hopeless,an echo of an echo.Even with IMAX 3-D."