Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Oh yeah, Beowulf


So there's this entirely motion capture movie out there, technically similar to and same director (Robert Zemeckis) as The Polar Express. I worked on it in the character pipeline group for about 8 months. Now, a year later, I saw it and was surprised to see my name in the credits. Whohoo!

Too bad I can't get excited about the movie itself. Why oh why do we need to motion capture people (and horses, even) if we're just going to use their same exact image anyway? (Ok, Beowulf himself is a composite of two different actors with an artificial body...) Come on. There's a much better, proven technology for capturing performances from people -- it's called film. Is it so we can get away with a PG-13 rating? How much hotter would it have been to use the real Angelina Jolie. Leave the computer graphics to Grendel, and the very nicely done dragon (done with keyframe animation, not motion captured) that seemed to be more alive than any of the videogame characters running around. The women looked especially fake.

The script is horrendously dull. Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) asks Beowulf (Ray Winstone) half a dozen times "Are you gonna kill Grendel?" John Malcovich loiters around as the lone Christian somehow cavorting with the Vikings. The only true acting I could discern came from Beowulf's sidekick. The movie has almost no humor and takes itself incredibly seriously even during the absurdly silly moments, like Beowulf fighting Grendel in his birthday suit, a la Austin Powers. Once everybody stops talking and start getting their limbs ripped off, or fleeing from a gold-plated dragon, things get a little better, but not much.

I had the fun of getting to watch the videos of the motion capture sessions. Low and behold, it was as if the actors were given the direction "Ok, be really stiff. Stare a lot. Your motivation is that you're in tight lycra pants with dots all over face and body and the sooner you finish the take, the sooner you can go home. Action!"
The entire movie has the tone of a bad high school Shakespeare production.

If you do decide to see it, go to an IMAX 3-D screening (which I hear is out-selling the normal theatres).

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posted by Brian at 8:53 PM

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