Who's in It:
Ray Winstone, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright Penn, Alison Lohman, Crispin Glover
The Basics: I shouldn't even have to tell you the story. You were supposed to have not blown it off when it was assigned in high school. But here's how it goes down: Beowulf battles the big giant monster Grendel. Kills Grendel (that's not a spoiler). Then he sort of "compromises" himself with Grendel's mother, who's not nearly as monstrous-looking as her son. Anyway, because Beowulf was thinking with his junk, the curse on the kingdom continues. This is why women should run all countries.
What's the Deal? This movie is 98 percent awesome (I'll get to the 2 percent lame in a minute) because the 3-D and the animation are that mind-blowing. Stuff comes at your face, from behind you and from below you. It's enough to make you sort of queasy if you're not ready for it. Anyway, the fight scenes and there are plenty of them are as exciting as anything you've seen in a movie all year. Who cares if it's all motion-capture and digital effects? It's not like you can do a live-action movie where someone fights a real sea monster. You're lucky you live right now instead of a hundred years ago when they had polio and no 3-D.
That Other 2 Percent: First, there's the matter of the dialogue, which sounds like people at a Renaissance fair drinking Pepsi and shouting, "Ay, wenches! This be fine mead!" But that's okay. It's not a documentary. The bigger problem is that they still haven't quite gotten human faces down yet in this motion-capture-animation stuff. Most of the time, Beowulf looks good, especially when he ages, but the secondary characters, and almost all the women save for Jolie (who sort of resembles a cartoon character in real life anyway) have blank expressionless doll faces, and it's sort of creepy.
How It's Like 300: Beowulf enjoys his own nudity. He fights naked. He lounges naked. He likes to recline on stone steps in the nude while having casual chats with his warrior comrades. Make him mad, and the first thing he does is rip off his shirt and start fighting you like he's waiting for Playgirl 500 A.D. to come shoot him for their centerfold. Oh, and nice Austin Powers gag there, Robert Zemeckis, covering Beowulf's mysterious cartoon man-bits with other people's arms, swords, andirons and other penis-shaped objects. That was funny.
Stay for the Credits and Count the Digital Animation People Who Are All Probably Really, Really Exhausted by Now: For example, I counted nearly 40 names that worked on cloth and hair. That's it. Weeks and weeks of animating cloth and hair. Next time your boss makes you restock the plastic-cup lids for an hour, you think of that and count your blessings.