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</script></div>{/googleAds}There's a reason the Old English poem Beowulf has been around in one form or another for some 1,300 odd years. Its story is that powerful and timeless. Forget the countless hours you spent reading and rereading the nearly indecipherable text in freshman lit., and realize that hidden within the pretentious droll and fragmented pentameter is the stuff of legends - the foundation for all our modern superheroes, from Conan to Superman to the Incredible Hulk. While Robert Zemeckis successfully incorporated many of the original's central themes things like Motherly love, corruption of the soul, and conflict between good and evil - into his adaptation, unfortunately what he forgot was human spirit and emotional connection. Sure, he tried... but all hope was lost with his decision to utilize motion capture technology to recreate the world of Viking kings, fire-breathing dragons and seductive reptiles.

The technology - which Zemeckis also used in 2004's The Polar Express - involves suiting the actors in lycra body stockings which then digitally translate the actors' movements and expressions into near-realistic renditions of living breathing humans. Operative word here being "near-realistic." What's actually created is some unearthly replicant that falls somewhere between Cabbage Patch doll and glassy-eyed wall-mounted deer head. Sure, it looks cool and the technology is indeed impressive, but we want stories with more emotional heft. We know and appreciate the technology that can make a computerized rendition of Angelina Jolie that is just as sexy as the real thing, but can you give it the same soul and human presence? If not, then let the real-life shapelier half of Brangelina do the acting.

Screenwriters Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary employ most of the epic poem's basic plot points, but bridge many of the gaps in the original story with some innovative, modernized twists which manage to spice things up a bit. In a mist-shrouded Danish Kingdom ruled by the buffoonish King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins), the god-like Beowulf (Ray Winstone) emerges to save the land from the tyranny of the wretched ogre Grendel (Crispin Glover). But while the death of Grendel at the hands of Beowulf (don't worry, I'm not giving anything away here) leads to fame and riches for the golden-haired man-god, in the long run it only leads to the wrath of Grendel's goddess-like mother (Jolie) who deploys a bit less hostile - but equally effective - means of wreaking havoc on the village. That's really about it as far as plot goes. The remainder of the runtime is filled with breathtaking scenes of flying dragons, drunken Thanes, and misplaced Welsh accents (remember, these characters are Nords, not Brits.)

Oh yeah, mustn't forget about the much-hyped nude appearance of Angelina Jolie's digitally rendered alter-ego complete with just enough missing nipple and genitalia to slide in under the family-friendly biosphere of the PG-13 rating. Don't worry guys, it's about as titillating as those personal hygiene and sex-ed filmstrips from Junior High gym class. While we're on the subject of genitalia, one scene that was clearly (or perhaps not so clearly) going for comedic effect, features a completely nude Beowulf battling the much more formidable Grendel. As our supposedly well-endowed hero moves about the embattled Mead House, strategically placed swords, beams, chalices and the like, hide the prying eyes of the audience from Beowulf's much ballyhooed male endowment - that he self-professes to be his most impressive weapon. We expected a slip-up a la Bart Simpson in this year's The Simpson's Movie. Now that would be funny.

Although this is probably Hollywood's most successful rendition of the authorless tale, in a way that's kind of like saying that '70s rock group KISS used to put on one of the greatest rock and roll stage shows. Behind the mask, both are just overly-hyped, mediocre bits (and I was a huge KISS fan).

At times, Beowulf's plot drags like a barnacle-encrusted trawler as Zemeckis never manages to keep up the interest level once the digital eye candy and impressive 3-D effects begin to wear off do yourself a favor and catch the 3-D iMax version if showing in your area. Digital technology is a terrific tool but will never win out over great storytelling and genuine emotion. Making a human connection with the audience is one of the most important aspects of moviemaking but unfortunately one of the most difficult as well especially in an effects-heavy film. Filmmakers still haven't figured out how to make real actors actually look like they are interacting with digital creations, and neither have they solved the hollow-eyed empty stares of motion capture characters. And that's about as unhuman as it gets.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English; French; Spanish

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; trailer; additional scenes; making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes featurette.

* Commentary -no audio commentary
* Featurettes
o The Hero's Journey: The Making of Beowulf (24:00)
o Beasts of Burden (07:00)
o The Origins of Beowulf (05:00)
o Creating the Ultimate Beowulf (01:55)
o The Art of Beowulf (05:30)
* Trailers
o The original theatrical trailer for Beowulf, Iron Man, and Shine the Light

Number of discs: - 1 - Keepcase Packaging