Robert Zemeckis, come back to live-action filmmaking. While we appreciate your pioneering efforts to expand digital technology, you could also leave that work to music videos and commercials, where dead-eyed characters can roam around in CGI landscapes for thirty seconds at a time. Do you really want to be working in product testing for the rest of your career?
So the point is, Zemeckis's Beowulf is a disappointment, in spite of a sprinkling of fun visuals. Mostly the failure stems from Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary's lackluster screenplay, which is full of plot holes and has a very dry, perfunctory, just-get-to-the-next-plot-point feel to it, not to mention the thinness of Beowulf himself as a character. Oddly, for an IMAX 3-D film, the world of this movie is distant and uninvolving. It feels like the whole movie only takes place in the same three or four locations and with five or six characters, curious for a type of movie limited only by imagination.
In contrast, not long ago I rewatched Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, a pair of super-low-tech swashbucklers from 1973-74. Neither movie has a dragon or any sea monsters, but they have so much more life in them than Beowulf, which is arid and limp by comparison. In contrast in the other direction, I hated 300 from earlier this year, but it was more successful in at least being thrilling and stylized in an original way, without the pretenses of having a deeper meaning and at a fraction of Beowulf's cost. That said, I don't hate Beowulf so I'd still give it higher marks for not making me angry, as 300 did. But on the level of simply providing cheap thrills, Zemeckis's movie falls short.
This is definitely a case where the technology gets in the way of the storytelling, and where the story has been altered and expanded unnecessarily for the sake of an additional action set piece or two. Too bad but at least it's better than The Polar Express.