Despite the ballyhoo surrounding filmmaker Robert Zemeckis’ use of 3D technology on Beowulf (as well as on his last effort, 2004’s The Polar Express), it remains exceedingly clear that the format simply isn’t appropriate for use within the context of full-length, fictional endeavors. While there are a number of admittedly eye-popping sequences within Beowulf, the overall effect is one of needlessness – as the combination of the uncomfortable glasses and the relentless effect of things jutting out of the screen ensures that the initially impressive visuals are ultimately negated by the annoyance of the technology. That being said, there’s certainly no denying the effectiveness of the movie itself – as Zemeckis has concocted a thrilling piece of work that’s rife with some of the most exciting action set-pieces of this new century. The relatively simple story – which follows legendary warrior Beowulf as he sets out to defeat a feared monster named Grendel – moves at a surprisingly brisk pace, though the emphasis on expository (and downright uneventful) matters within the midsection does lend the proceedings a distinctly uneven vibe (the thrilling finale ensures that the film ends on a high note, however). Zemeckis’ use of motion-capture technology to animate the film does take a while to get used to, yet there’s little doubt that the uniformly strong performances play a significant role in breathing life into these glassy-eyed characters (Ray Winstone and particularly John Malkovich are Oscar-worthy here). In the end, Beowulf is clearly the movie that 300 was trying so desperately to be – ensuring that, despite its various flaws, Zemeckis has deftly regained his footing following The Polar Express (which was entertaining but inconsequential) and proven once again that he remains a master storyteller.

***1/2 out of ****

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