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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 12.02.08] post apocalyptic

Year: 1999
Release date: 1999
Director: Graham Baker
Writer: Mark Leahy
IMDB: link
Amazon: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Christopher Webster
Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Are you ready to play 6 degrees of Christopher Lambert?

Just as Cyborg took the PA genre to new heights of blockbuster silliness 10 years earlier, so too was Graham Baker's Beowulf designed as a treat for genre fans looking to chow down on some pop-corny post apocalyptic fun times at the turn of the new millennium.

Basically, this version of Beowulf is a mindless techno-rock monster movie that owes little to its literary source material and more to earlier 90s video game movies like Paul Anderson's Mortal Combat (which also starred Chris Lambert... that's 1).

However, it's also a film that looks waaay too bloody cool for me to hate it like I know I should and with the added bonus of Rhona Mitra (Doomsday) flaunting her womanly wares like it's 1999, well, this movie remains somewhat of a winner for all kinds of right and wrong reasons.

Since we all know the story, let's start with the film's amazing production design.

The world of this particular incarnation of the epic 6th century poem was designed by one Jonathan A. Carlson, who's past work includes Highlander: Endgame (which also starred Christopher Lambert... that's 2) as well as many episodes of last season's LOST. An amazing blend of medieval fantasy and post-apocalyptic industrial wasteland, Beowulf throws design logic to the wind in favor of armored faceplates that have no eye holes, swords that have handbrakes, and six foot cerated edged broadswords that wouldn't slice a pot roast let alone a mythic monster. This is a violent comic book vision come to life.

The film takes place in a castle-like outpost that's designed to be grimy and muddy to the max. This lends a great realism to the film. The costume design is also well thought out (if leather's your thing) with straps, buckles, skull helmets, chain mail and all the minute details worked out to give a certain credibility to the world... which is good because everything else about the film is pretty incredulous.

Armed with more blades than a Chinese sous-chef, Christopher Lambert plays the titular hero, a silent but deadly (heh) warrior with a sorded past who wants to look death in the face and see if it's the root of his salvation. He also miraculously heals really fast and is adept at doing slow motion back flips which come in handy as Grendel is sorta slow what with all that latex rubber weighing him down.

The acting? Okay, I love Chris Lambert in theory but his accent is a serious impediment to his delivery at times. He's great in French films but here? Not so good. Honestly, all talk of "assets" aside, Rhona Mitra is the best actor in Beowulf and I'm not surprised she became the star she is now. Lots of great character actors round out the ensemble cast- like Charles Robinson of Night Court fame (did anyone see the 30 Rock Night Court reunion episode?), and Oliver Cotton - but still the mismatched ragtag cast are mostly working against each other.

The FX are nothing much to cheer at either though considering this film was made on the cusp of CGI mania, I'm surprised there isn't more dated FX work in the film. Grendel is mostly hidden behind a computer generated warping effect which actually saves it from being too silly but the money shots at the end really show their age. Miniature work and matte paintings abound!

The bottom line here is you already know whether you're the kind of viewer who's gonna love this film or the kind of viewer who's going to turn up their nose at it and move on to Derek Jarman's Jubilee or something. Me, I love this stuff as much as the smarty pants movies so I had a blast watching it for the fist time ever (if you can believe it) and I know there are more of me out there. Oh and btw I know I totally stopped playing 6 degrees of Chris Lambert somewhere at the top of the review but honestly a combination of it being kinda late and drinkgin a whole bottle of Pinot Griggio made me lose interest somewhere around the middle of the review.

Recommended Release: Beowulf

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Anglebender (12 years ago) Reply

LOL Chris Lambert is a parachute on a rocket: Thankfully Beowulf has been aptly realized by Robert Zemeckis, but this late 90's version makes great party fodder!

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