Directed by Robert Zemeckis (PG-13)

A mythic hero battles an ogre, its mother, and a dragon.


Beowulf’s excessive use of technology “doesn’t enhance the story—it is the story,” said Christopher Kelly in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Director Robert Zemeckis lets all the life out of this Anglo-Saxon epic. The director has previously used special effects brilliantly: In such films as Back to the Future and Forrest Gump the visual trickery was the “creative means to tell the story.” But his newfangled motion-capture technology turns Beowulf into a “virtual-reality video game” devoid of urgency and emotion. Zemeckis seems more concerned with digital details, such as the “bulging vein of an animated bicep,” than with rendering an exciting story line. Beowulf is at least an upgrade from Polar Express, Zemeckis’ first attempt at the technique, said Kirk Honeycutt in The Hollywood Reporter. The “myth becomes vigorous flesh,” and the writing team of Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary transform a poem from A.D. 700 into a “vibrant, nerve-tingling piece of pop culture.” Beowulf is more than just a movie, said Joe Morgenstern in The Wall Street Journal. It’s a technical leap forward, as well as a “spectacle that’s impressive, occasionally bawdy, and often thrilling.” The special effects may lead some to underestimate what Zemeckis has achieved. Beowulf “deserves to be taken semiseriously.” Unfortunately, any film that stars a realistically animated version of Angelina Jolie, who looks nearly naked, “begs to be taken frivolously.”