November 14th, 2007

All hail Gaiman and Avary! All hail Zemeckis! All hail these men, these wizards of men, for they have made Magic! Beowulf is a stunning accomplishment. A computer animated film that pushes past the Uncanny Valley into beauty that often surpasses what reality could produce and film could capture. A story that has captivated for over a millenium, realized in new depth by artists who appreciate both the mythic nature of the tale and the realities of the culture that originally sang it in mead halls and firelit gatherings of all sorts. And what artists! By the end of the film, my mouth was dry from my jaw hanging open and my eyes were watering from the sheer wonder of it! First, the 3D is astonishing, and gave not a hint of the cheap, sloppy-layered appearance that so many 3-d features have. Images have depth in every dimension and texture, not simply depth separating one element from another. I am certain that this movie will blow you away if you see it on a regular screen, but in my opinion you would be doing yourself a disservice if you have any opportunity to see this in 3-D and accompanied by IMAX sound and never make that attempt. Second, the setting…immaculately detailed in both its beauties and its harshnesses. This is a story set in, and told about, a world of men whose culture is not our own. They had different values, different expectations and mores, standards for what is acceptable and what is admirable that might surprise some, but should make the heartstrings of any medievalist swell and thrum (particularly in the portion where the original Anglo-Saxon is sung). Third, the acting and animation, two features that cannot be separated. Never before have digital characters been so expressive of the analog motions and emotions of the human beings they portray. Flawless voice acting is matched to flawless motion capture and layered over and over in amazing art of astonishing detail. I cannot recommend this film highly enough. I feel privileged to have been able to see it, and privileged to live in a time when it could be made.

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