Tuesday, December 04, 2007
CGI actors... big nasty monsters... Angelina Jolie's virtual boobies... epic poetry... must be Beowulf!
Originally I'd kind of wanted to go and see this in Digital 3D, since I figured it would probably be half worth seeing with the extra bells and whistles... but events kind of conspired against me... and I think they actually charge more for the 3D (must be the very stylish 3D glasses)... and I wasn't completely sure whether or not the movie was going to be a big let down or not... so we ended up seeing in it RegularD.
I know that part of the movie was motion capture and part of it must have been regular CG animation (at a guess anyway), but I have to say, they still don't completely have either system quite down when it comes to realistic looking humans. A lot of the skin textures are quite good (although on occasion you did feel they were trying just a little too hard), but it's the motion that's just not quite right yet. I kept being reminded of the human supporting characters from the Shrek movies... they had that slight "wooden" quality about them...
And I know that in every single one of those "making of" things that you watch they always say "water is hard"... they didn't quite pull that off either... water in motion at any rate (there were some breaking waves at the end of the movie that just looked unnatural).
But for what it was (a complete and total CGI movie with "realistic" human characters), it wasn't bad... they'd obviously put the effort in, and it did show.
They'd obviously also worked in a whole bunch of shots and angles that would make the most of the fact that they were doing a 3D version... I will admit that there was only one REALLY obvious shot (a spear pointing right at the camera for no good reason) that were milked for the 3D... but when you looked at some of the slightly more regular camera work, you could tell that quite a bit of it was leaning towards 3D Friendly... tracking shots through bare tree branches where they flick past the lens... rocks falling towards camera... characters appearing suddenly in the foreground... items being thrown towards the camera... that kind of thing. The spear shot was probably the only one that really stood out as being totally obvious outside of normal camera work though.
Now beyond being aware of the Beowulf story and knowing the names of Beowulf, Grendel and Hrunting (which it turns out is a sword... who knew)... I really didn't know a whole hell of a lot about the legend/poem. And I think some of what I did know probably came from an episode of Star Trek: Voyager... so the story was pretty much all a surprise, and I don't know where or if they diverted from the original. Not that that really matters I guess... it's just one of those cases when you wonder how much of your "pop culture experience" actually relates to the actual story. Or I do anyway... but we've already established that I'm odd.
One thing that I would be interested to know is if in the original poem that Beowulf throws off his clothes at a moment's notice on quite so many occasions! Now I have no problem with the virtual (or non virtual for that matter) nudity... but Beowulf seemed to take great delight in stripping down to bare flesh as often as he could. And with CGI buttocks that firm and rounded and pretty and a set of abs you could have grated cheese on, I didn't mind... it was just a little disappointing when Beowulf's big confrontation with the Grendel actually gets turned into an Austin Powers style game of "hide the doodle behind strategic objects"... it made it unintentionally humourous, which really wasn't the mood they should have been trying to create at that moment... at least I don't think so.
I did, as with all variations of animation, play a rousing game of "Guess That Voice"... some of them were obvious (even more so when the CG character in question looked as much as possible like the actor)... and it also proves that I just have a thing for John Malkovich no matter what he's in... but then my thing about him is mostly about the voice anyway.
There was also some slightly questionable accent work going on too... more from the American members of the cast I think (with the exception of Malkovich)... although Anthony Hopkins did seem to be channelling his work as Van Helsing a little at times.
Having said all of that I was reasonably caught up in the story as it was happening... and even with all the highly unbelievable stuff going on, there was really only one moment towards the end of the movie that made me go "OH PLEASE!"... and that involved a horse and a burning bridge.
I might lean more towards recommending this as something to see in 3D though... I think the additional bells and whistles would probably make up for some of the slight flaws. But I don't think this is something that I'd want to go and see again, even to see it in 3D.
yani's rating: 7 CGI Geats out of 10