‘Beowulf’ goes for gory gusto

While Beowulf earned $195 million worldwide in theaters, it cost $150 million to make, so DVD and other sales down the line will have to bail it out financially. (Keep in mind that studios don’t take 100 per cent of box office dollars.) Part of the trouble may have been an identity crisis. The film was rated PG-13, but it was marketed with a so-called “red-band” trailer meant only for “restricted” audiences. Now on DVD from Paramount, it’s available in its original form as well as in an “unrated director’s cut” whose “more intense footage” skips the R and NC-17 entirely.

So, just how gory is it? Quite a lot — but in this case, director Robert Zemeckis is forgiven. That’s because his Beowulf exists in an artful middle ground between live-action and CG animation, so the gory gusto is distanced. And it doesn’t hurt that Beowulf — the tale of a hero who slays monsters but is staggered by his own weaknesses of the flesh — is sheer fantasy and pretends to be nothing else. In fact, if you loved The Lord of the Rings trilogy, you’ll find comparable elements of dazzling wonder — and melancholic woe — in Beowulf.

That’s not to mention a superb cast of actors (Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Ray Winstone, Robin Wright Penn) who are heard in all their glory while seen in CG reimagining. Cool headbands, too.

Beowulf may be a classic ancient poem rebooted for today’s moviegoers, but it retains a haunting sense of epic grandeur amid some of the wildest, bloodiest action (at least, in its unrated form) that you’ll find anywhere. It’s audacious, kick-butt and cathartic, but that’s not all this tragic yet rousing tale is about. Check it out and see — and don’t worry: There’s more than gore in store.


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