It helps to have a sense of the ridiculous whilst watching Beowulf, particularly when confronted by the spectacle of a muscular, naked Ray Winstone wrestling a redneck zombie in the firelight. Comparisons to Women in Love aside, Beowulf is this year’s 300– a testosterone-chugging epic filled with myth, magic and some brilliantly OTT quotes.
Based on the poem of the same name, the film sees the eponymous warrior try and rescue Hrothgar’s (an enjoyably hammy, but worryingly unclothed, Anthony Hopkins) kingdom from the beast Grendel. Soon, however, Beowulf is sells his soul to become a hero of legend- one who must ultimately step up and defend the kingdom once more.
Firstly, the film’s CGI effects are good but variable; Winstone’s Beowulf, though looking nothing like him, is fantastically realised, as is Hrothgar and the film’s monster roster. However, extras are poorly-rendered and the effects lack a sense of gravity, making the characters’ floaty movements somewhat unnerving. This is combined with a similarly surreal set of performances- Winstone is fine as our (inexplicably cockney) hero, but John Malkovich’s weaselly court advisor is simply bizarre, the actor mixing his trademark mid-Atlantic accent with some Scandinavian touches which make him sound more like the Elephant Man than anything else.
However, Beowulf remains highly likeable due in part to Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary’s script which, though occasionally clichéd, delivers solid set-pieces and humorous dialogue. The film is also enjoyably adult in tone, with Crispin Glover’s Grendel indulging in limb-hacking sprees which certainly meet the claret quota. For a 12A-rated computer animation, Beowulf impresses in that it never feels like a children’s film; Robert Zemekis has once again shown his innate ability to entertain both young and old alike by refusing to patronise his audience.
In conclusion, Beowulf is a brash, trashy yet hugely entertaining piece of fun which shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Though the film may have its flaws, it delivers well on action, adventure and male nudity. And that’s what really counts.