Monday, November 16, 2009

Images of Beowulf Part 2: Animation Creation

The 2007 Beowulf movie directed by Robert Zemeckis is a computer generated animation film. The film endeavored to be different in both story and animation style. It takes liberty with the plot of the original Beowulf legend under the guise of portraying the "truth" behind the epic; assuming that the old English version is an oral tale that was distorted with time. The film is built on the idea that no man is perfect and the "real" Beowulf was flawed. This premise proves interesting, since literary the Beowulf was nearly perfect. I think that this assumption improves the story greatly, since the traditional tales of how Kings are remembered are rarely synonymous with not how they truly were. Furthermore, many of the side characters give the movie an unexpected depth, especially the Queen, who survived three corrupt rulers. She was one of the only genuinely good characters and a true pleasure to watch.

However, even though the story was enjoyable, the animation was not. In an attempt at realism, the 3D computer animation mimics real people, using actors as models and then animating over. This tactic failed. The main characters felt fake, with the stress on realism becoming a distraction. Instead of falling into the world of the film, every flaw in the recreation of the actors kept the view at arm's length. Moreover, the side characters are caricatures of people that barely fit in the world created. While the animation failed in its portrayal of people, the monsters were fantastic. Both Grendel's and the dragon's forms were a blend of the expected and the creative. Grendel is a humanoid with a unique physical feature that clearly explains his hatred for humans, in contrast with Grendel's mother who is a modern portrait of the perfect feminine form. She is curvaceous with gentle and delicate hands. Her monstrous feet and tail are reminiscent of a Judeo-Christian demon. She is clearly a Lilith type creature, as referenced in the original tale, beautiful and deadly. If only the majority of the film could have focused on the monsters, it might have been spectacular.

Since it did not, I give the animation a 2 out of 5 and the story a 3.5 out of 5.

Still waiting to be impressed by Beowulf,
J.R. West the Raccoon

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Best Holiday Ever!

With Halloween just past, I thought now would be perfect time to hit on a common figure currently saturating our culture: The Vampire. Therefore, I took a moment on this lovely holiday to assess the vampire overload in my own life.

Example 1:
Midnight Opera by Hans Steinbach is a OEL (original English language) manga. The main character is a guitar playing vampire with a nemesis for an older brother. The first manga in the series was decent enough, but I have not gone through the trouble of finding the next.

Example 2:
Vampire Wars is a facebook application which doubles as a game. You create a gothic vampire avatar who then completes missions for his or her clan. You can fight other vampires in an old world based gaming style. It is a basic game, but I do love collecting pieces for my avatar.

Example 3:
Foxtrot had a brilliant comment on Twilight's destruction of the traditional vampire last Sunday. And as much as I love Twilight, I agree with Jason. Nothing beats the traditional Nosferatu.

Example 4:
The Vampire Diaries is a CW television show for teenagers. It is a cliché story of girl lover’s vampire, but he thinks he is wrong for her. There is even a nemesis brother; it really is just another Twilight. The only saving grace is that the vampire looks far more vampire-like than the guy that plays Edward in the Twilight movies.

This is just a quick guide to my recent encounters with vampires. It does not include the wide number of book, movie, and comics surrounding vampires, or even the White Wolf role-playing game. Take a moment and count the number of vampire inspired things in your life, you will be amazed.

Loved the Recent Holiday,
J.R. West the Raccoon