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Robert Zemeckis
Ray Winstone, Robin Wright Penn, Anthony Hopkins
Writing Credits:
Neil Gaiman, Roger Avary

The warrior Beowulf must fight and defeat the monster Grendel.

Box Office:
$150 million.
Opening Weekend
$27,515,871 on 3153 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $12.99
Release Date: 7/29/2008

• “In the Volume” Picture-in-Picture Mode
• Deleted Scenes
• "A Hero’s Journey” Featurette with Interactive Mode
• “Beasts of Burden: Designing the Creatures of Beowulf” Featurette
• “The Origins of Beowulf” Featurette
• “Creating the Ultimate Beowulf” Featurette
• “The Art of Beowulf” Featurette
• “A Conversation with Robert Zemeckis” Featurette
• Trailer


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-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
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-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Beowulf [Blu-Ray] (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 18, 2021)

With 2007’s Beowulf, Robert Zemeckis adapted the classic epic poem for the modern age. When a misshapen monster named Grendel (Crispin Glover) terrorizes a Danish realm, Prince Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) sends out a call for a hero to slay the beast.

Into this setting comes manly-man Beowulf (Ray Winstone), a character who may be a better self-promoter than a fighter. The movie shows his attempts to slay Grendel as well as other adventures.

At its best, Beowulf strikes me as a Lord of the Rings lite. I don’t mean that as a criticism, really, though it may sound that way.

The flick clearly appears to use Peter Jackson’s epic as its blueprint in the way it stages action and treats events. Beowulf doesn’t feel like a blatant rip-off of Rings, but without Jackson’s work, it seems tough to imagine it would exist.

At its best, Beowulf provides a reasonably rousing adventure. It doesn’t tell a particularly complex tale, as despite some complex ambitions, it usually remains a pretty simple man vs. beast story.

Nonetheless, within its plot and character restrictions, it boasts some entertaining action. I think it probably works best without much depth, simply because the lack of embellishment allows the action to shine more brightly.

Unfortunately, a lot of the movie’s strengths become submerged under its biggest weakness: the character rendering. If you look at my review for Zemeckis’s Polar Express, you’ll see that one major complaint related to the animation. The participants all looked disconcertingly artificial, and this took away any potential the film possessed to become the heartwarming holiday fable it aspired to be.

Over the three years between Express and Beowulf, the technology improved, so the characters in the latter don’t look quite as zombie-like as those in the former. In addition, I can’t claim that the rendering harms Beowulf as much as it affected Express.

Granted, the latter wouldn’t have been very good under any circumstance, as it just didn’t translate to the screen well, but the animation killed it. Beowulf still manages some pleasures despite the visuals.

That said, I never could quite get past the ugliness of the character art. Faces betray no expressiveness, as they always remain stiff and artificial.

The movie tries for photo-real looks but ends up more like Shrek characters. The humans wind up caught in some awkward Neverland between true realism and cartooniness.

This doesn’t work in the Shrek films – I’ve always disliked their style choices – and it fails even more notably here. The characters suffer from such a plastic look that it becomes impossible to invest in the story. The visuals keep the viewer at a distance since they highlight the fakeness of the whole enterprise.

And that’s a shame, since Beowulf could’ve been a lot of fun. It Zemeckis had gone the Lord of the Rings route and staged the film as a live-action spectacle with plenty of CG enhancement, it would’ve probably been very good.

Oh, it slips at times, such as when Beowulf fights naked. The filmmakers use so many silly devices to obscure Beowulf’s manhood that the movie threatens to turn into an Austin Powers farce.

But otherwise, Beowulf has its moments - or it would have its moments if I could accept the stiff character animation and buy into the story. Maybe others can better accept the movie’s visuals, but I can’t, and that issue makes Beowulf very difficult to enjoy.

Note that this disc of Beowulf provides the film’s “Director’s Cut”. Since I never saw the theatrical version, I can’t relate any differences.

However, I think the changes are minor based very similar running times, so I wouldn’t expect any notable alterations for this “Director’s Cut”. I suspect it adds a smidgen more nudity and violence but nothing substantial.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

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

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