'Beowulf' is an uncommon sensory treat that combines the best of animation with the best of big scale motion pictures. It is both epic and focused. Perhaps my immense enjoyment of it had a lot to do with the fact that I witnessed the spectacle in all its 3D glory, though I doubt anyone watching it on conventional screens would find it any less riveting. A retelling of the classic 8th Century poem, the film benefits immensely by utilizing the services of fantasy comic book legend Neil Gaiman and cult screenwriter Roger Avery, who extrapolate and fuse their own interpretations of the elaborate source material with satire, grace, sensuality and unflinching brutality.
The film, lavishly entertaining as it is, doesn't trade its visuals for character depth. As the king who is willing to generously reward the slayer of Grendel, the demonic creature that butchers the people of his kingdom, Anthony Hopkins comes across as a drunk fool who puts his faith and trust in the brave, hubris stricken warrior Beowulf (Ray Winstone). Both these roles require the right balance of character nobility and imperfection and these two central performances, for that is what they are in this animated film, are more than just serviceable. In its ability to transport the viewer to another time and place, the film is perhaps better served by its use of animation than any conventional film might have allowed. If there is a complaint to me made, it is in the way the film uses temptress Angelina Jolie to rather superficial effect.
Like he did previously with 'Polar Express', director Robert Zemeckis has a lot of fun with tracking shots, all of them executed in a way to inflict the right jolt when viewed in 3D. As a novelty, 3D's effect has worn off on me, but it continues to provide much awe and amusement because it is used so well here. Also consider the possibilities of motion-capture technology, here used to give an actor of Winstone's girth the body of an athlete. Could this be the filmmaking of the future? It is debatable, but it offers endless possibilities in the way it is able to combine the best of traditional filmmaking, using professional actors, without the limitations of scouting for live sets. For 'Beowulf', that proves a flawless combination. - Faizan Rashid