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Beowulf: Future of Epic

The Shootout blog asked recently whether it’s worth it to
see a movie in a theater anymore, when at-home viewing comes reasonably close
to replicating the big-screen experience. And a few weeks ago, I wrote about films that could survive the
to downloadable formats.

But unless you have 3D Imax in your living room (and if you
do, I’m coming over), there’s no way to get the full advantage of Beowulf without paying the tariff at the
local multiplex and plunking those giant glasses on your head.

Director Robert Zemeckis, employing the same motion capture
technique he used in The Polar Express,
is certainly onto something. The way to ensure that people continue to visit
movie theaters is to provide something they can’t get at home – spectacle.

The super-sized classics, like Lawrence of Arabia, Fantasia,
Star Wars, Gone with the Wind and 2001:
A Space Odyssey
, hold up well enough in a domestic setting. But full-grown, they’re simply awesome, and
not just because they amaze. They go beyond
the "wow" factor to reach the psyche.

Beowulf certainly
amazes. But it would die in
captivity. Once the thrill of sound and
fury is removed – and it’s a considerable thrill – there isn’t all that much left. Unlike other "big" non-live-action
films, Beauty and the Beast, for
example, or The Incredibles, Beowulf aims for the eyes and ears,
rather than the gut and the heart.

Characters show their emotions by tilting their heads rather than
arranging their features; close-up substitutes for connection. The gushing blood looks more like drops of
mercury than anything that ever ran through human veins. And the film has an improbable coyness – a
scene in which Beowulf strips naked to battle Grendel might be an homage to the
opening sequence in Austin Powers: The
Spy Who Shagged Me

Beowulf makes you gasp,
wince, marvel. But it doesn’t make you

Read more about Beowulf on Monsterfest.

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