If there was a director I can describe as both fascinating and brilliant, it would be Robert Zemeckis. He's been one of my favorite directors of all time and has directed many fantastic films over the years including "Back to the Future", "Forrest Gump", "Contact", and "Cast Away" just to name a few. He's also been known to have dabbled a little bit in animation as the live-action hybrid "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" is a classic and film I greatly adore. Then in the 2000s, his company ImageMovers decided to play around with motion capture animated movies which resulted in a mixed response from audiences and critics alike. He then continued this until 2011 when the disastrous "Mars Needs Moms" hit theaters and bombed at the box office so catastrophically it ended motion-capture animated movies for good. Despite their mixed reception, I still love and greatly admire both "The Polar Express" and "Monster House", the first two animated films from ImageMovers using the technology. However, in my opinion, I think "Beowulf" is where the film went sour for good and never recovered. When it came out in 2007, some critics liked it and found it entertaining. To me though, I found this film relentlessly boring and an absolute chore to sit through. It's really bad.
In the kingdom of Denmark in 507 AD, a hideous monster named Grendel (Crispin Glover) has attacked a celebration held by King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) and his wife, Queen Wealtheow (Robin Wright). Needing a hero to slay the beast, he calls upon Beowulf (Ray Winstone) and his lieutenant Wiglaf (Brendan Gleeson) to slay the beast. Beowulf easily accomplishes this, but eventually, the death of Grendel deeply disturbs his mother (Angelina Jolie) who devises a plan to seek vengeance on his death. From there devices of a series of manic action, gore and blood, and lots and lots of shouting and I just got sick of it fast.
I have no idea what Zemeckis and writer Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery were setting to accomplish with this film. I have great respect for all three men with Zemeckis' aforementioned films, Gaiman writing fantastic books and stories including "Coraline" which would get turned into a fantastic film by Laika two years after this movie, and Avery working on other stories including collaboration with Quentin Tarantino on the script for "Pulp Fiction". I really think that all three men are exceptionally talented and have made amazing works which makes this film all the more confusing. I read that Zemeckis was trying to make this film so adults can take animation motion capture more seriously after the lukewarm results of "Polar Express" and "Monster House". If that's what he was trying to do, then he failed badly. This story is easily the biggest problem with this film. For one thing, it's absolutely boring. I love fantasy and epic adventures and despite this film being based on the epic poem of the same name, compared to something like "The Lord of the Rings" or "Harry Potter" this felt so shallow. It feels like it was going from scene to scene and trying to show audiences how epic this film looked and yet I just found myself checking my watch constantly during this film. Nothing grabbed my attention or astonished me in any way. It was a real shame. Even the climax of this film dragged and was so tiring that by the time it was over, I was relieved that the film was nearly finished rather than asking for more. Also, this film really felt incredibly juvenile to me. Right from the first scene of this film, I was already disconnected by how juvenile it was as it involved constant drinking, burping contests, men sex, peeing on the floor, and the king arriving in the mess hall almost naked and it only got worse from there. What were they thinking? The script felt like some teenage boys' sexual fantasy epic rather than a bold and brave action film meant for adults to take this art form seriously. As far as the animation goes, it's definitely not bad. The animation doesn't feel as uncanny as the last two ImageMovers films and has its moments including where Beowulf encounters Grendel's mother being a highlight, but throughout the film, I felt like I was watching a video game cutscene. The characters looked and moved like a PlayStation 3 game and it often took me out of the film even more. It didn't have any life in it like "ThePolar Express" or "Monster House" had. The characters themselves weren't much better. Beowulf doesn't do anything extremely heroic or interesting to captivate me. Most of the time, I feel like he salivates his muscular body and just shouts a lot. Wiglaf is a blank slate character who doesn't do really anything, King Hrothgar is a blithering and bumbling idiot, and Queen Wealtheow is stale who mostly is in the film making bored, blank expressions. It doesn't help that I though most of the performances in this film were very bad as well as it was hard to make out what some of these actors were saying. I felt like they were mumbling most of the time. It also doesn't help that the male characters constantly lust over women and the female characters are portrayed as objects and are totally pointless to the story. I really felt disgusted by that.
In all honesty, I found "Beowulf" really bad. The story is boring and juvenile, the animation while decent feels like a video game cutscene, and the characters are stale and feel like they are there to fill the story's purpose. I really didn't find a lot of enjoyment in this film and just found it an absolute chore to sit through. There are some people out there that do enjoy this film and really have found fun in it, but I was certainly not one of those people. To me, this just felt like the start of what would become the end of motion capture animated movies. It certainly wasn't as bad as what was to come, but it certainly is a film I never want to watch again.