I expected the film version of the epically tedious Old English poem to be a craptacular. Director Robert Zemeckis used the same motion-capture process in 2004's The Polar Express and turned live actors into digital humans who looked invaded by body snatchers. Boy, have things changed. The eighth-century Beowulf, goosed into twenty-first-century life by a screenplay from sci-fi guru Neil Gaiman and Pulp Fiction's Roger Avary, will have you jumping out of your skin and begging for more. Be sure to see it in 3-D. I can't vouch for the flat version, but the 3-D Beowulf will debut on a record number of digital screens (1,000, and 90 in IMAX). Put on those plastic glasses and ride, baby, ride. I've never seen a 3-D movie pop with this kind of clarity and oomph. It's outrageously entertaining. Terrific actors were hired to do the movements and the voices. Ray Winstone, so good in The Departed and, well, everything else, speaks the role of Beowulf like a Viking hero for the ages. The Adonis body (Winstone is fifty and flabby) comes courtesy of the digital department. Angelina Jolie didn't need body tweaking to play hottie mom to the monster Grendel (Crispin Glover). That is, until she transforms into a literal dragon lady. Anthony Hopkins plays a king with a thing for Mom, whose penchant for nudity also rouses Beowulf. Credulity is stretched tighter than the film's PG-13 rating. There are unintentional laughs, especially when Beowulf strips off his Village People skivvies to fight Grendel. It's a balls-out scene, with impressionable audiences protected from testicle whiplash by carefully placed objects (no doubt a nod to the censored orgy in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut). But as humans battle monsters, Zemeckis springs so many pow 3-D surprises you'll think Beowulf is your own private fun house.
From The Archives Issue 118: September 28, 1972