Beowulf appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, this became a pleasing presentation.
Very few issues affected sharpness. I thought some wider shots looked a little soft, but nothing significant marred the presentation, so the movie almost always came across as concise and accurate.
No jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and edge enhancement was absent. Source flaws also caused no concerns through this clean flick.
In terms of colors, Beowulf went with an earthy palette. Golden hues dominate the film, so don’t anticipate a broad array of tones. Within these constraints, the colors were appropriate and clear.
Blacks seemed dark and full, while shadows proved acceptable, if a little on the dim side at times. The latter didn’t become a noteworthy issue, though I thought some low-light shots could feel a bit thick. I almost went with a “B”, but enough of the image looked strong to make it a “B+”.
In addition, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Beowulf also satisfied. The soundfield wasn’t tremendously active, but it added plenty to the tale.
As one might expect, the action scenes boasted the best material, as they showed good movement and vivacity. Elements filled the room and created a nice sense of the battles. Otherwise, we got good stereo music as well as solid environmental information.
Audio quality was perfectly satisfying. Speech was natural and concise, without edginess or other issues.
Music sounded rich and dynamic, and effects worked in the same manner. Those elements showed nice clarity and accuracy, and bass response was quite rich. The audio complemented the visuals in a positive manner.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? The lossless audio added a bit more range and impact, while visuals looked better defined and offered more dynamic colors. The Blu-ray became a nice upgrade.
The Blu-ray provides the DVD’s extras as well as some exclusives. In the latter category comes In the Volume, a picture-in-picture feature.
With this activated, we see the original motion capture footage of the actors in the lower-right portion of the screen. A lot of rough CG footage appears as well, and we get some storyboards too.
On one hand, I enjoy this kind of material, and I appreciate our opportunity to see so much of the mo-cap footage. Normally we’d just find a featurette with a handful of these shots, so our ability to view virtually the whole movie in this format becomes a delight.
On the other hand, the presentation makes it tough to watch the actual movie. The inset screen takes up enough of the screen to obscure a lot of the action, so the mo-cap material can distract.
Nonetheless, I appreciate the feature. Plus, one can turn it on or off easily, so if you get annoyed by the picture-in-picture, it becomes simple to deactivate.
We also find a bunch of featurettes. A Hero’s Journey: The Making of Beowulf goes for 23 minutes, 57 seconds as it offers a look at the “virtual shoot”. We get plenty of footage from the set as well as a few behind the scenes glimpses of the technical processes.
A smattering of comments from participants crop up along the way, as we hear from director Robert Zemeckis, actor Ray Winstone, key makeup artist Tegan Taylor, 1st AD Josh MacLaglen, supervising art director Norm Newberry, property master Michael Gastaldo, associate production manager Julie Groll, writers Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary, director of photography Robert Presley, stunt coordinator Garrett Warren, and animal coordinator Paul Reynolds.
However, mostly this piece shows us how things worked on the set. It’s a great look at the complicated – and often silly-looking – manner in which the film was created with the live actors.
Unique to the Blu-ray, we can also access an Interactive Version of “Journey”. It includes pop-up trivia as well as branching videos.
In those clips, we hear from Taylor, Newberry, Gastaldo, Groll, Warren, producer Steve Starkey, Imagemotion supervisor Demian Gordon, Imagemotion technology lead Dennis James Hauck, Jr., production assistants Bryan Stephan and Brett Schooler, FACS supervisor Remington Scott, EOG system operator Andrew Rose, prop maker William Ascedo, and actor Sebastian Roche.
The trivia blurbs tell us about the source, the story and the production, whereas the videos focus on technological aspects of the shoot. Both offer good information.
10 clips appear under The Journey Continues and fill a total of 21 minutes, 13 seconds. These show the same clips you can access as branching elements during the prior feature.
For the six-minute, 56-second Beasts of Burden: Designing the Creatures of Beowulf, we get notes from producer Steve Starkey, production designer Doug Chiang, director Robert Zemeckis, writers Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman, and actor Crispin Glover.
They tell us about the designs of Grendel, Grendel’s mother, the dragon and the sea monster. Plenty of good details appear during this short but efficient piece.
The Origins of Beowulf fills five minutes, 13 seconds with remarks from Zemeckis, Gaiman, Starkey, and Avary. They discuss the film’s story and the adaptation of the classic poem. We learn a lot about the changes made for this version of the tale in this tight little show.
Next comes the one-minute, 59-second Creating the Ultimate Beowulf. It features Starkey, Chiang, Zemeckis, and actor Ray Winstone. It provides a few notes about the Beowulf character and how Winstone got the role. It’s too brief to convey much, unfortunately, and it feels fluffy.
The Art of Beowulf goes for five minutes, 25 seconds and includes Zemeckis, Chiang, Gaiman, and Avary. They chat about visual and set design. This becomes another useful program despite its brevity, as it packs in a decent amount of information into its short running time.
New to the Blu-ray, A Conversation with Robert Zemeckis lasts 10 minutes, 11 seconds and features the director at a USC panel after a 3D screening of the film.
Zemeckis discusses his interest in the project and its path to the screen as well as aspects of the production. Some of this repeats from elsewhere, but Zemeckis still brings a good overview.
11 Deleted Scenes run a total of 14 minutes, three seconds. All seem eminently forgettable, to be honest. Some minor character moments appear, but not anything that would add to the film.
Note that the DVD included only six deleted scenes, so the BD brings another five. These add three minutes, 32 seconds of footage, none of which seems memorable.
The disc gives us the flick’s theatrical trailer. It drops previews for other movies that appeared on the DVD.
I think that Beowulf could – and should – have been a lively action-adventure. At times, it almost achieves its goals, but unfortunately, the decision to use awkward, fake-looking computer animation renders all its positives moot. The characters look so artificial and plastic that they constantly distract the viewer. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and audio as well as a pretty decent set of supplements. If you can get past the ugly animation, you might enjoy the film.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of BEOWULF