Monday, November 19, 2007

Beowulf - The Review

One of the common resentments against Bollywood movies is that you inevitably see the same stuff over and over again, whatever the title, theme or (for lack of a better word) plot. Coming to US, I find the same applies to a lot of Hollywood movies, the difference being that Bollywood films all pretty much rank as ''family entertainment'' while Hollywood films tend to fall into several genres - romantic comedy, heroic action, college flick, chick flick, slasher and so forth. Know the genre, however, and with a lot of films you will know the plot. Beowulf is one such film.

Beowulf falls under the "mythological recreation" subcategory of "heroic action". You can therefore figure out several things about it, even if you don't know the legendary Old English poem.

Since the movie is about a hero not in a war, there has to be a hero-requiring situation. Hence the opening fifteen minutes when King Hrothgar's feast, on opening night of his mead-hall is wrecked by Grendel, Gollum's twenty-five-foot cousin who speaks lispy Old English, has the skin of a Ramsay Brothers' zombie and hates the sounds of festivities - he'd have been a hit with the Taliban.

Prior to his attack we see Hrothgar, the drunken fat old king. His Queen is much younger, wayyy thinner and a good deal more refined - clear indications of romantic tension and triangles once Beowulf turns up.

He does, leading a crew of people all but but one of whom have no dialogue. It's clear - Beowulf is going to kill Grendel, just after the monster has wiped out this entire valiant gang. The guy with dialogue might just get in a dying inspirational speech or give Beowulf his wife's amulet or something.

He meets the King and Queen and in no time, the air's electric. Hrothgar offers him a golden dragon-shaped cup if he kills the beast, but it's clear Beowulf would prefer something to put his dragon into.

The beast comes, kills about 75% of the dialogue-less crew and wrestles Beowulf, who wierdly takes it on naked. He deals with it by yelling at it and chaining it to a chandelier and swinging about the rafters and so on - general naked hero stuff.

All this takes place in about 45 minutes. Since it's an hour-plus till the next show, the threat's not dealt with yet. It reveals itself as Angelina Jolie, who can slay men silently, appear in dreams and, when Beowulf confronts her, walk nude so sinuously as to cause a penis explosion. Highly dangerous, this mother of Grendel.

Seeing as it's Angelina Jolie, you know she can't die before the credits roll, and so must do some Satanic seduction stuff with our naked (Again!!) hero.

Beowulf, like any red-blooded male with functional sausage and meatballs, is taken in by this sinuous beauty, and ''agrees'' to ''give her a son'' (Oh the mortification of selling one's soul so!!!).

The rest of the movie deals with the consequences of his ''sin'' (And no, it does not end with Angelina Jolie and him moving in together a la ''Knocked Up'' to raise the baby. Neither am I talking something out of Masoom or Salaam Namaste). Suffice it to say that Beowulf's mighty dragon begets more of its kind.

The movie's motion capture based animation was unique, allowing CGI to blend in nicely with actual acting done by actual actors. But cinematography alone does not a good movie make, and when your plot is so riddled with cliches as to be checked off a list, the end result is sheer boredom.

Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich and Brendan Gleeson play Beowulf, Hrothgar, Hrothgar's minister and the sole survivor of Beowulf's crew. The real show stealer (and, when you see the trailer, the USP of this movie) is Angelina Jolie, who looks golden skinned, flies, has a serpent tail behind her and is mostly nude throughout her parts. Her digital body remains about the only worthwhile thing to see in this otherwise predictable film.