I mentioned in a previous post that I’d been to see Beowulf at the cinema and enjoyed it tremendously. I didn’t get around to saying why I enjoyed it tremendously, but that’s because I was interrupted by a phone call. These things happen.
I thought Beowulf was a grand, bold and jaw-droppingly magnificent piece of classic heroic fiction that was epic in every sense of the word. There, that wasn’t so difficult. It was a guilty pleasure of a movie that reminded me of why I fell in love with cinema in the first place. Sorry, Rol.
It certainly broke new ground in terms of visual storytelling, but I felt that this was one of those rare occasions where eye-popping CG trickery didn’t disguise a weak plot and shonky characterisation but heightened the mood and served the story. Kudos to Messrs Zemeckis, Gaiman & Avary for pulling it off.
Just to clarify matters and put things into perspective, I don’t think Beowulf was the best film I’ve ever seen. It’s not as good as – say – Citizen Kane, Vertigo, Breathless, Yojimbo, Luis Bunuel’s Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie or Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. But it was certainly the best film I saw last Sunday night.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I saw the 3D version of the film. I hadn’t seen a 3D movie since I was a kid, and was somewhat gobsmacked by the advances made in this technology. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but on a couple of occasions I instinctively ducked for fear of getting my eye poked out by a digitally-rendered spear. I’d like to think that this conveys the eye-popping effectiveness of the technique, but I suspect it probably displays the feeble-minded gullibility of my brain. In any case, it probably makes me look like a member of that legendarily dumb Lumiere Brothers’ cinema audience who panicked at the sight of an advancing train.
Let’s be clear about something, though: 3D films are a gimmick. In fact, they’re one of the oldest gimmicks in the book. Before the film started there were trailers for a remake of Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Which is fairly interesting, to me at least. When 3D movies were first introduced in the 1950s- along with CinemaScope, Cinerama, Scratch-O-Rama and a veritable plethora of audio-visual snake oil – it was at a time when cinemas were losing vast chunks of their market share to a troublesome upstart medium called television. Hollywood film studios and cinema chains feared for their future and were desperate to find new ways of delaying their impending Ragnarok and of getting bums back on seats. Now, half a century later, those same industries once again believe they’re losing vast chunks of their market share to another upstart medium and are just as desperate to halt and reverse the arse-to-seat attrition. And just as the 1950s studio chiefs and cinema owners tried to find new gimmicky enhancements that couldn’t be duplicated on a humble black and white telly from Radio Rentals, their modern day equivalents are digitally-tweaking old gimmicky enhancements that can’t be duplicated on a humble laptop screen.
Alphonse Karr knew what he was talking about.