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Listening to Beowulf

Posted at 3:33 PM on November 20, 2007 by Euan Kerr

Distractions aside, watching "Beowulf" is quite an experience. The figure based animation gives the film a fantastical edge which adds to the telling of the epic tale.

If you can, see the 3D version. Director Robert Zemeckis can't resist the cliched arrows and spears plunging into the audience, but otherwise the 3D is a pleasing addition to the whole shebang.

What's a little disconcerting is the voices.

The original epic poem was written in Old English, and as such is unintelligible to the English speakers of today. Also the characters all come from different places (and in a couple of cases species too.) So it's not surprising that they have different accents.

Yet it is a little bewildering to hear the Welsh accent of Anthony Hopkins as King Hrothgar bantering with Beowulf who speaks with Ray Winstone's jowly London accent.

And then you get Crispin Glover as Grendel moaning in what seems to be Old English, talking with his mother (Angelina Jolie) who switches into Lara Croft English whenever she tries to get under Beowulf's skin. All the rest of the characters seem to slide between Danish- and Dutch-tinged speech, occasionally within the same sentence.

Also, while the Angelina Jolie character rising from the water will no doubt be the subject of many a dream from here on, people were laughing aloud at the way this demon ridiculously shapeshifts into a pair of high heels.

But I am quibbling here. This is a lot of fun, and maybe it might even cause a few folk to check out the original text in all its glories.

All photos: Paramount Pictures and Shangri-La Entertainment, LLC

November 2007
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