BeowulfDreamworks Pictures (Blu-ray)
In the age of heroes comes the mightiest warrior of them all Beowulf. After destroying the overpowering demon Grendel he incurs the undying wrath of the beast’s ruthlessly seductive mother who will use any means possible to ensure revenge. The ensuing epic battle throughout the ages immortalizes the name Beowulf. Academy Award winner director Robert Zemeckis tells the oldest epic tale in the English language with the most modern technology advancing the cinematic forum through the magic of digitally enhanced live action.
Robert Zemeckis has been really pushing the envelope with both animation and 3-D. His earlier groundbreaking work with The Polar Express is still exemplary and the underrated Monster House is still one of the best animated films I’ve seen and was amazing in digital 3-D. Beowulf is the first adult animated film from Zemeckis and a strong offering in its own right. The animation has some of the most photorealistic imagery I’ve seen to date for an animated feature and really pushes the boundary between real and animation. Sure I could nitpick a few scenes here and there, but you have to give credit where credit is due. The new Director’s Cut doesn’t offer anything more in terms of depth of story but instead ups the gore. I thought the theatrical cut was already pretty violent but this new version adds quite a bit of bloodshed and violence making it a solid R rating in my book and definitely not a film for the younger ones in the household. Gore aside though, I found this more entertaining the second time around a solid action adventure tale, even without the 3-D spectacle.
The previous HD release of Beowulf on HD DVD was pure reference material and this new Blu-ray encode is every bit as good. I didn’t see any real differences between the two but that suits me just fine considering that it was easily one of the best video presentations of the last year. This film was originally developed for a 3-D presentation and the incredible sense of depth is preserved perfectly. If I had a complaint it would continue to be the inconsistency in realism that the animation affords but that is hardly an issue in the HD presentation which reveals ever ounce of detail. Few HD releases boast this level of quality.
Unlike the HD DVD version, Dreamworks has included a full Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless mix for this release. Honestly, I never had an issue with the strong showing from the previous Dolby Digital Plus mix and I didn’t really detect much of a difference this time around. The sound design is sensational for this film and combined with the score and outstanding sound effects this is a hell of a ride. Intense infrasonics and a thunderous bass line make for some intense demo material in the latter parts of the film and the voice work blends in perfectly with the rest of the mix. Just like the HD presentation, this is one not to be missed.
Extras appear to be largely the same as the HD DVD release from a few months ago. There is a picture-in-picture feature that gives you an inside look at the creative process along with commentary and interviews and a slew of production features all in HD. These cover the majority of the production including the motion-capture process, designing the monsters and casting. Some deleted scenes, the trailer and an interview with the director are also included.
Paramount delivers a spectacular Blu-ray with this one. Reference quality work for both audio and video presentation and a great supplementary package make this one an easy recommendation.