Grandiose in scope, Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf is a cinematic feast that demands the audience's attention, thanks to its groundbreaking special effects -- and in its theatrical form, an exceptional 3-D unlike any other -- yet despite all of this, the film fails to resonate beyond the gee whiz knee-jerk reaction. There's no doubt that the filmmakers tried their best to realize this dream of an adult fantasy epic -- inside and out, the picture seeps sexuality when it's not concerned with ripping limbs or delving into the complex heart of a CG performer. The problem is that for this tale of ultimate heroism to work, one has to actually like the hero. Whether the seed is buried within the source material or the adaptation (provided by heavyweights Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman), this version of Beowulf is just not the kind of guy who appeals to audiences -- he's a liar and an egomaniac, yet crowds are supposed to cheer for him when he steps up to the plate and actually does something extraordinary instead of just bragging about it? When it comes down to it, all the breathtaking action and impossible imagery in the world doesn't amount to much if the moviegoer isn't invested in the characters. The uneven motion-capture effects that run the gamut from photo-realistic to shoddy video-game stiffness do little to help this, even if they are a step up from the director's previous CG experiment, the freakish Polar Express. Technically, the film showcases a stunning color palette and exceptional sound design, which do make for a unique cinematic experience -- it's just too bad that the emotionally empty content hardly lives up to its expensive candy coating.
by Jeremy Wheeler review