Beowulf: The Spoiler Post

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In a sacred Campari-induced vision this weekend I glimpsed a glorious future in which movie theaters are so tricked-out with high-tech stuff that we will all have to specify on the rare occasions when we happen to see movies in a non-3D, non-iMax (iMin?) format, instead of the other way round. So let me give you a taste of things to come when I say that I finally caught Beowulf on Sunday, in its flat, 2-dimensional, one-story-high form. A few impressions follow. The impressions are fully spoilerized, so stop here if ect. ect. ect.

Per Matt’s post, I should have seen it in 3D. There are lots of exaggeratedly perspectival shots — tracking shots over plunging chasms, ect. – that are clearly meant to be watched that way, to the point where the mere knowledge that Matt saw those shots in 3D detracted from the actual pleasure I would otherwise have derived from them.

— There’s really a lot of naked Angelina Jolie. I mean, I thought we would get like one PG-rated sideboob shot of her. Instead there’s 20 straight minutes of her swanning around with her large, very slightly asymmetrical molten gold snoobs waving every which way. She appears to not sort of have any as it were obvious genitalia, though. What, I’m just saying.

— I was surprised at how cruddy and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within the mo-cap animation looked. Not that I minded all that much, but there were moments when I thought I was watching Shrek: The Stabbening.

— The above sounds whiny, as if I didn’t actually like it, so I should state the obvious, which is that Beowulf was incredibly fun. Smart and hyper-violent and yeah, kinda sad. That bit toward the end where Beowulf is standing on that steel-grey beach, yelling at that Frisian dude to kill him, and you feel that his whole legend is a lie, and it’s eaten him away to a hollow Nordic shell of himself — I felt a genuine pang. Though I still don’t know if I buy that he had to cut his own arm off in order to rip out his dragonson’s still-beating heart. Seems a little impractical, and kinda over-symbolic since it links him (duh) with Grendel, who got his arm ripped off. We are all monsters now. Ect.

— I still don’t know what it was about. I mean, the screenwriting was fantastic — it goes without saying that Gaiman and Avary are incredibly smart, and they hacked a ton of extra plot onto the original poem in a way that didn’t feel false at all, just fun and clever, and it brought out a lot of rich buried subtextual stuff. The whole Oedipal anxiety over male succession; the weirdly sexual, penetrative nature of sword-combat; the transition from pagan to Christian. Ect. This is Proust compared to 300. But there’s a kind of weird symbolic algebra at work in the movie that leads you to a sense that sex is bad (since it produces monsters) and fighting is good (it destroys monsters and produces glory). Which is a weird thing for a movie to be about. I’m just saying.

— The door is wide, wide open for a sequel. Beowulf II: Wiglaf’s Journey!