screenplay by Neil Gaiman & Roger Avary
directed by Robert Zemeckis
by Walter Chaw The Old English epic gets what feels like its twentieth adaptation in the last couple of years alone with Robert Zemeckis's Polar Express-ized--which is to say, digitally rotoscoped to distraction and peopled with pixel phantoms that look like dead-eyed Toussaud versions of the actors voicing them--Beowulf. Not that there aren't a few pretty cool moments (especially in IMAX 3D, the six-story screen doing wonders for the masturbatory shazam interludes), but the whole thing is decidedly unthrilling and so technologically interesting that it overwhelms any connection we might otherwise have with the story. I spent a lot of energy admiring the whiz-bang and almost none giving much of a shit about anything else. What won me over at the end is that it's completely ballsy in its anti-Christian tactic, suggesting a few weeks before The Golden Compass debuts that the general sea change against the evangelicals, if not predicted by the cinema, is at least reflected by it. A scene where a bishop played by John Malkovich is carried on a cross from his dragon-levelled church, hissing about "sins of the fathers," is almost as tricky as another where good king Beowulf (Ray Winstone) announces that the "Christ God" has done away with all heroes, replacing them with "fear and shame." I prefer my heresy in the subtler vintage minted by stuff like Matthew Robbins's Dragonslayer, but what the hell: if Hollywood's going to fire a shot across the Conservative bow, I'd rather they do it this way than with something like Lions for Lambs. Also cool is the casting of Crispin Glover as evil troll Grendel.