New Dimension to 'Beowulf' Saga; Looking Close-Up into the Eyes of Good and Evil

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Byline: Kelly Jane Torrance, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

For a poem that everyone seems to avoid reading, written in a long-dead language, "Beowulf," unlike its title warrior, seems surprisingly unwilling to die.

Most of us may have skipped the 1,000-year-old Old English epic in college, but it continues to inspire everyone from novelists to artists to filmmakers.

Just in the last few years alone, we've seen the film "Beowulf & Grendel," a made-for-TV movie "Grendel," a graphic novel, comics and even an opera "Grendel," itself based on a 1971 novel.

Now comes a new film and with it the obvious question: Do we really need another "Beowulf"?

I can answer that question with three short words: "Beowulf" in 3-D.

Robert Zemeckis' latest film may have eye-rollingly obvious sexual innuendo, some bland dialogue and a Geats hero who sounds straight out of East London (everyone in the cast has a different accent). But it's also one of the most exciting film experiences of the year.

"Beowulf" was made using motion capture animation, the same sort of digitally enhanced live-action technology Mr. Zemeckis - a best director Oscar winner for 1994's "Forrest Gump" - used in his 2004 film "The Polar Express."

The technology's gotten better since then, although the eyes still don't look completely lifelike.

The characters all look like the actors who voice them (minus about 30 years in the case of the title character played by Ray Winstone) and the film itself looks like a well-done video game (which, of course, is also on its way to a store near you).

Not every theater is showing the film in 3-D, but you must see it wearing those geeky goggles to get the full experience. Water and blood look like they're about to drip on you; Grendel's foot looks like it's about to land on your face. You might find yourself ducking to avoid one of the limbs that Grendel snaps off men's bodies like so many twigs.

The first part of the story hews pretty close to the source: Beowulf arrives in Denmark circa the year 507, offering to rid the kingdom of the monster Grendel (Crispin Glover) in payment of a debt he owes King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins), a drunkard who doesn't seem to be getting along with his pretty young wife, Wealthow (Robin Wright Penn). …