Beowulf in 3D at IMAX
The CG juggernaut that is Beowulf brought with it more hype in this sphere than is good for any film. The amount of press and CG articles surrounding the build-up and release means there is nowhere for any flaws to hide and at the same time a huge podium to stand the highlights.
The tale itself I am not familiar with, though some of the names are famous. I like the epic tale that Robert Zemeckis weaves for us, bringing depth, history, scale, scope and grandeur. The film brig to life a place and time for us on the edge of the old world of myths, legends, heroes and demons and the new age of the one god where all these things will be lost for all time. The creatures we get are big, dangerous and flawed and while the heroes will need to go into battle of various sorts it is their own imperfections that bring the demons to them. We need to give credit here to Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery whose script brings all these ideas to life for us.
[Beowulf images from the Rotten Tomatoes site]
The CG work is quite simply top shelf in every way. Sony Imageworks pulled out all the stops to create a film whih is fully CG in every frame. Previous attempts at this sort of thing like Final Fantasy and The Polar Express have delivered advances in this genre but for most have fallen well short of the mark. Enter the Uncanny Valley! Sony have spent over $160 million trying to claw their way out of this Valley - attempting to get us past that awkward feeling we get when things are almost right in terms of human reproductions. This applies in this CG world, but spawned in others like robotics and prosthetics.
The stills are simply gorgeous and Beowulf pulls off some very convincing shots here and there particularly where the movement is subtle and we are in nice and close on the amazingly detailed human models. Where we have full-body animation or interaction things fall deeper into the valley and are far from 'real'. As with all these things it can be quite hard to say what exactly isnt quite right, but for sure it isnt. My favourite character for this was probably Wiglaf, whos CG version of Brendan Gleeson is really neat and brings his subtle expressions out for us. Angelina's CG double was stunning and her face will be a poster-child for CG for many years to come.
[Beowulf images from the Rotten Tomatoes site]
3D - yowzers it is fun to see things in gigantic 3D at the IMAX theatre. This takes movie-going to a whole new level each time. Sometimes the film fell back into the problem where things seem to be in 'levels of 3D' just like plates in Snow White or Bambi. But the rest of the time it was just a natural boost to everything that we were in 3D the whole time. There are the times when the 3D is highlighted, from the opening credits, arrows arcing past us, fireballs hurtling our way to just the picturesque beauty of the scenic shots. Everyone as to get along to see something in 3D on the big IMAX screen and it is another achievement for SPI to bring us a full version of the film to this format - SUPER.
Other standouts for the CG were things like hair - simply beautiful in all its forms from beards, female locks, bear hides to all those little hairs on the older character's noses. The water, gold, snow, rocks and the cloth were all expertly delivered along with effects like fire, mmm fire.
I last covered Beowulf on Day313 when Theo Bialak gave a presentation at the AEAF for us. Mark Ramshaw's article in 3DWorld 99 goes into plenty of depth for us on the creation of the film and its CG wonders. The Beowulf official site has some beautiful versions of the stills from the film. The animations felt a bit like those in Shrek and thus fell below the visual quality of the film. It is really hard to fault the quality of the renders at this level, is it only in the animation that future giants in this genre (Avatar, TinTin and co) will excel?
In the end this film is an instant classic, full of passion, depth and character. Like any mighty film it has its imperfections, but perhaps it is a better film for them. When you add the 3D experience to this, we get a beast that I think gobbles up the hype with room for more.
The awesome musical score by Alan Silvestri is something I neglected to mention thus far. I feel that the score in films of this type is vital to bring out the feeling and mood of the film as it does in others, but here in the fantasy genre is helps to lift us out and into this new world being created for us. Alan Silvestri is without doubt a master at this with a credit list as long as your arm and he does it again for us with Beowulf!