Plot: What’s it about?
[message_box type=”info” icon=”yes”]Editor’s Note: This will most likely be our last HD DVD review.[/message_box]
King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) rules over an impressive kingdom, but his iron fisted rule has been challenged by an unexpected force. In the middle of a royal banquet, a hideous beast known as Grendel (Crispin Glover) crashes the event and turns it into a bloodbath. Of course, Hrothgar wants this Grendel to be eliminated, but his own men don’t seem to be up to the task, so he offers a generous bounty on the creature’s head. So whoever can kill the monstrous Grendel will be able to collect half of the kingdom’s gold, no small fee. In response to such a high bounty, Beowulf (Ray Winstone) treks to the kingdom to collect and he does just that. But even with Grendel out of the picture, a new evil rises to challenge to Beowulf and this time, things have gotten quite personal…
The concept here is quite interesting, take a well known mythical tale and bring it to life using motion capture, giving us fully animated versions of our stars. Think Polar Express, but more refined and with a more adult approach in mind. The Beowulf story has been covered countless times, but never like this. Robert Zemeckis spins Beowulf as an epic action adventure, with brutal battles and stunning visuals. The animation is superb, but as always, fails to capture the full essence of the performances, not to mention the eyes still seem off. Even so, Beowulf was a lot of fun for me, as I enjoyed the vivid visuals and full throttle pace, as Zemeckis has really pushed the material here. Some might not appreciate the liberties taken with the source, but I thought the changes made for a bolder, but still faithful version. Beowulf looks and sounds phenomenal in high definition, not to mention a nice selection of extras, so this release is well recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Beowulf is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Wow. This is one of the most gorgeous visual treatments I’ve seen, simply incredible. The digital to digital transfer ensures a pristine, razor sharp image, so Beowulf really shines. The detail is beyond impressive, with such subtle touches visible that you’ll be distracted by the nuances in the visuals. You’ll see so much here, you will want to watch it again and again, just to soak it all in. The colors are accurate, whether bold and vivid or dark and brooding, not to mention flawless contrast levels. No artifacts, no softness, no errors of any kind. This is a true reference level presentation in all aspects, kudos to Paramount on this one.
Audio: How does it sound?
I was a little disappointed by the lack of a lossless soundtrack, but this Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 option soothes that concern with a dynamic presentation. This movie has ample action and those scenes burst through the surrounds, power to burn and presence that makes you feel right in the thick of things. The power is impressive, but the depth and range is what stands out, this isn’t just loud, the surround use is immersive. The attention to detail is impressive, as atmospheric elements are rampant, so this track really pulls you in and refuses to relent. The bass kicks deep and often also, so you’ll feel the low end in your chest, without a doubt. No issues with dialogue either, as vocals are well handled to boot. I was floored by this soundtrack, as it makes the most of the material and gives no real cause for complaints. This release also includes French and Spanish language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This two disc release has all the supplements from the standard editions, plus exclusive content. A Hero’s Journey runs just under half an hour and explores the motion capture process. This is a good featurette that helps us understand how unusual and demanding this kind of shoot has to be. This high definition release includes an interactive version of this featurette as well, with added mini-videos and pop-up information. If you want to learn more about the motion capture process, Beowulf in the Volume allows you watch overlays that show the performers at work. This is quite a cool inclusion, even if not all the scenes are available, well worth a look. A quartet of brief featurettes follows, but none run over ten minutes, so you can’t expect much in terms of insight or depth from these. This release also includes an interview with Zemeckis, some deleted scenes, and the film’s theatrical trailer