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

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