XiMan says BEOWULF is a *effing* masterpiece?!?!?!!?
Hey folks, Harry here... I'm seeing this Monday - my excitement level just turned a corner. Hope he's right. Here ya go...
Hi Harry / Drew:
My name is XiMan and I attended the LA trade screening of BEOWULF last night on the Paramount lot. Being that there are no other reviews, I thought I'd shoot one over to ya.
First off: This film is a fucking MASTERPIECE! Albeit, the screening was in a perfect theater, with perfect sound and the print was both Digital and 3D! But still, I was amazed at how superb this film is. If it were a live-action film (which the story is PERFECT for), it would have been nominated for Best Picture (not kidding or exhaggerating) but it probably would have cost $500 million. The story is bold and REALLY scary (especially for the first hour). The performances are oscar-caliber. The score was reminiscent of "What Lies Beneath" in its ability to frighten you before the monsters do. Even the special effects (which really look video-gamey on the trailers they've put out) are top notch!!! There are sequeneces in this film where a shot originates as a close-up on a rat crawling across a beam, and it doesn't end until the shot has traveled outside the Danish kingdom where the story is set, and continues through the snow-covered wilderness and into the cave where Grendel (the monster) dwells. This thing is really EPIC.
Try to imagine the SUPERB, OSCAR-WORTHY (let alone "caliber") performance of Andy Serkis as Gollum in LOTR -- but spread out between all the major characters of the Beowulf classic! Every nuance of every peformance is there! You won't believe how real it both looked and felt (we also had the best pair of 3D glasses I've ever used -- but they took them back after the screening -- Boo!). Anyway, I really hope the performances and the fear still translates in theaters that don't have 3D or digital.
Ok, so here are the spoilers (but I'm not going to give everything away):
When the film opens, the 3D titles come zooming over your shoulder (via 3D): BEOWULF! On fade in: We're in King Hrothgar's (Anthony Hopkins) "dining hall" where a huge, raunchy, semi-orgy celebration is underway. Hrothgar is as loud and rambunctious as a frat boy in his twenties and he graces us with the first of many "ass shots". (NOTE: There is enough nudity, blood, gore and violence in this film to garner a NC-17 rating -- were it live-action). We meet Hrothgar's Queen Wealthow (Robin Wright-Penn) who seems too sweet to be apart of this madness. And we also meet his #1 - Unferth (John Malkovich) whose kinda slimey, and yet likeable. On the other side of the kingdom, inside a dark cave, the noise, music and merriment revurberates in a way that would put waterboarding to shame. Absolute torture! We see a glimpse of Grendel (in spectacular detail!) and we notice that his ears are deformed in a way that amplifies sound. He SCREAMS! Oh shit!
Cut back to the mess hall: more of the same. Suddenly BOOM! BOOM BOOM! The giant door explodes open and the beast enters. Grendel goes on an absolute RAMPAGE! Ripping men into pieces with his bare hands (again, great GOREY detail). As they scream to their deaths, the noise aggrivates his sensitive ears even more and before you know it only the queen and king are before him. Hrothgar pulls out a sword : "Fight me, you son-of-a-bitch. Fight me!" We can tell that Grendel wants to kill him, but he doesn't -- and we kinda know why. He screams again and leaps into the fire -- disappearing into a blue supernatural flame.
The king outlaws celebrations and seals the dining hall permanently. When asked if they should appeal to "the Christ God" for help, the king says no. "We need a hero."
Enter Beowulf (Ray Winstone). Young, boastful, arrogant, mighty, muscular, blonde -- ya know, all the "hero" qualities. He's on a storm-ravaged ship headed for the Danish kingdom. When he lands he declares to Hrothgar and his kingdom that he "Has come to kill your mons-stah'!" (BTW--loved all of the accents here). Queen Wealthow interrupts his brute promises with a "We've heard it all before, but in the morning there is only blood on the walls...and celings, and cupboards" lol. Beowulf looks at her, and we can tell he wants to hit that.
So anyway, Beowulf and his men ask the king to re-open the dining hall (called Heorot) so they can awaken the monster. Hrothgar obliges and there's a huge party that night. Queen Wealthow sings songs to Beowulf to wish him good luck -- but in the cave: you guessed it, Grendel is pissed! Beowulf tells the Queen to leave. He strips naked and says something like "If your monster doesn't have armor, neither shall I." But we know he just wants to show the Queen that he's packin. Anyway, Grendel arrives right on cue, and fucks shit up again. At first he seems to be winning, but Beowulf quickly discovers his weakness: noise, and those gigantic throbbing ears. He beats the monster to a bloody oblivion, and Grendel begins shrinking because of it. "The monster shrinks!" Beowulf's men shout to each other as they watch him whip Grendel's slimey ass (Beowulf's still naked, btw). This fight scene is really impressive, and the animators deserve a lot of credit for hiding Beowulf's cock and balls in creative ways throughout.
So where's Angelina Jolie??? After the opening attack by Grendel, we meet her -- though we barely see her. She sings her baby monster to sleep in endearing little scenes between his madness. She's a monster too, but MAN, with that voice, you won't give a shit. After celebrating Grendel's defeat, more gruesome deaths occur, so the people believe he's still alive. Until the king proclaims "It wasn't Grendel.... It was his mother." And Beowulf is all "WTF! You didn't tell me I'd have to kill an entire family of bloody demons!" lol.
Nevertheless: Beowulf travels to the cave with his #1 Wiglaf (Brendan Gleeson) -- BTW: This actor is SOOO underrated. Beowulf goes into the cave alone, armed only with a sword and the king's golden dragon horn. The horn has significance (that I won't reveal now) but moreso here as it glows within the pitch-black cave. He gets to the center of the cave where there's a giant treasure. "REVEAL YOURSELF, YOU FILTHY DEMON!" his voice echoes. Then, from the darkness, that sexy voice: "Are you the one they call Beowulf?" "SHOW YOURSELF!!!" Something plops down into the water. Then slowly, that forehead, those eyes, those perfectly formed lips, tits, torso, ass -- and a full frontal cooch shot as she rises from the water. She's gilded in gold, and her hair is braided into a tail that can chop off heads (and does!) She seduces Beowulf, of course, and promises to make him the king if he would give her another son in exchange for Grendel. Oh, and he also has to leave the dragon horn in her possession.
Beowulf returns with stories of how he slay her and brings Grendel's head as a souvenir to prove it. But the king knows better. He corners Beowulf. "Did you really kill her?" "How could I be here if I didn't?" Hrothgar smiles, knowingly. "She's a sight to see, isn't she? Grendel's mother." "What do you care?" "I don't. She's not my problem. Not anymore..."
We transition from this scene to like 20 years later, where Beowulf is king (as promised), and Queen Wealthow is now his queen -- but they don't really like each other anymore. No, now he's bangin' what looks like a 15 year old girl, lol. But I should mention that the Transitions in this film are SICK!!!! The whole story just unfolds, linking one era to another and you never feel the 120 minute running time. Anyway: There has been peace for all this time (except in the king's marriage) because "Secrets tore us apart," says the Queen to the 15 y.o. concubine. And after the golden dragon horn mysteriously re-appears, a real savage golden dragon starts burning shit up, and the people are all "WE'RE CURSED! THE MONSTER HAS RETURNED!!" Beowulf knows what he must do. He straps on his armor, says his goodbyes and heads back to the cave to confront his baby's momma.
What follows is a fight scene with the dragon demon that is AWE-INSPIRING! You won't believe the amount of detail achieved here. This scene definitively shut out any possibility of this being a live-action film (which I was rooting for). It's just way too big and too complex to pull off in live-action. It would have cost $100 million alone! The details are just epic and really meticulous. I won't give away the ending, but take my word...it is PERFECTION.
FINAL VERDICT: Flat out, one of the best animated films ever made. Tour de force performances, that only first-rate actors could help bring to life. Heart-pounding action sequences and a good dose of edge of your seat scares (especially in the first hour). I really want people to see this film. I'm telling you, it's a fucking MASTERPIECE!!!