Beowulf Comic Con Footage Review

Last night saw a screening of the entire second reel (about 25-30 mins) of “Beowulf” at the San Diego Comic Con.

The Robert Zemeckis-directed project completely utilises the same motion capture technique seen in his hit “The Polar Express”, but combines it with a dark interpretation of the classic 8th century English poem.

Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright Penn, Alison Lohman, John Malkovich, Crispin Glover, Brendan Gleeson and Angelina Jolie all star in the film. Comic legend Neil Gaiman and acclaimed scribe Roger Avary – who both penned the film – were on hand to introduce the piece and give a short Q&A afterwards.

The good news is that CG rendering has come along way since ‘Polar’. Whilst still a few years away from fully shaking off the waxy figurine look that is inherent to the genre, quite often certain shots in the footage would fool even the most critical observer – it’s that good. Movements have a far more natural and smoother feel, whilst elements like blinking and talking are notably better (though not perfect). In particular the renderings of Anthony Hopkins as the King and Crispin Glover as the mutated monster Grendel are truly breathtaking at times.

Also startling is Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s mother. Armed with a thick accent that makes her Romanian turn in “Alexander” seem soft, she spends most of the time nude – gold paint dripping down to cover her naughty regions, but so figure hugging that it may as well be useless. This is a dark film with nudity, violence, sexual innuendo, scary visions and dozens of dead mutilated bodies hung from the rafters – despite the fact the filmmakers assuring us the movie will be a PG-13.

Ray Winstone, the gruff English actor is rendered with an Abercrombie model style super fit warrior body that’s often in a loincloth, and at one point nude with “Austin Powers” style moments of foreground objects covering his genitals. Not faring as well is Penn who’s Queen seems on the somewhat soft mannequin side. Also oddly enough some of the fire elements seem decidedly clunky, a real surprise considering the much harder to render water elements look utterly believable.

It’s a really quite beautiful looking film, the acting seems pretty good and the story is a classic. There’s promise of a massive dragon fight towards the end which looks pretty spectacular, and the 3D certainly makes it a quite fascinating experiment. When it hits in November, it will be viewable in regular 2D, 3D and 3D IMAX. Make sure to check out the new trailer.