Beowulf: Director's Cut Robert Zemeckis

Beowulf: Director's Cut Robert Zemeckis
Beowulf, in its 3D Imax release, was a delightfully sensational action extravaganza, excellently suited to the burgeoning CGI technology director Robert Zemeckis employed in its making. So how can Zemeckis, short of including 3D specs and an HDTV in every package, retain the film’s visceral impact on the small screen? By pushing his bawdy take on the epic poem’s tenuous 14A rating to its gory limits and returning the nipples to Angelina’s golden, shape-shifting witch’s breasts, that’s how. However enticing the promise of nipples to fan boys, it’s the amped-up splatter factor that Zemeckis focuses on in his director’s cut. Beowulf is positively seeping with some of the harshest violence outside of a slasher flick, or a Mel Gibson epic. Never mind that it’s CGI, all the bone snapping, flesh tearing and limb-severing action is rendered with greater realism than the unsettlingly plastic facial features of the female cast. This lack of detail may be a technological shortcoming, or more likely a telling sign of the film’s decidedly testosterone-heavy skew. That writers Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery were able to treat such a masculine mythology with a playfully satirical wink is a testament to their prowess with upending archetypical clichés. In the special feature "Origin of Beowulf,” the writing team explains the choices they made in fleshing out the rather dry and disjointed original poem with the connective tissue of back-story. Instead of simply connecting the dots — troll attacks kingdom, hero fights troll, hero fights troll’s mother, hero ends up king of another country fighting a dragon — the tale is given moral weight and a greater sense of continuity, particularly for a film presentation, by Gaimen and Avery’s willingness to explore the connections and motivations hinted at in the poem. "The making of,” "Creature” and "Beowulf” design features are fascinating for their technical motion capture components but watching Ray Winestone flap around as a dragon and Crispin Glover deliver a delightful nuanced performance as the pitifully tortured Grendel, while covered in sensors, are the real treats. The largely unfinished deleted scenes are hysterical, with wacky motion physics and a glut of naked Ken-doll looking character models. Zemeckis neglects to contribute what could have been a technically fascinating commentary track and Angelina Jolie is nowhere to be seen, even as Tom Hanks stops by for some mugging. It’s still a top-notch action adventure but Beowulf is a bit of a missed opportunity on the small screen. (Paramount)