Beowulf Strides Into London

Empire is at ye olde premiere

Beowulf Strides Into London

by Ross Bennett |
Published on

Beowulf is the oldest surviving tale in the English language. That means it’s older than the Battle Of Hastings, Betamax and Shia Labeouf. In fact, it’s not simply old – it’s olde. But despite its age, this story of heroes, monsters, battles and blood still retains its legendary power. And when you harness that energy, add a hefty batch of technical ingenuity, enlist the talents of Angelina Jolie, Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins – all present at tonight’s European premiere – you really are left with something rather special. “I remember seeing The House Of Wax in 3D in the ’50s – that was a good film”, muses Hopkins. “But this [Beowulf] is a remarkable movie and a real cinema experience”.

Filmed using motion capture techniques and filtered through the Real D 3D projection system, Beowulf has pushed moviemaking to another level. But it hasn’t been a smooth ride and, for some, tonight marks the end of a very long journey. “About a decade ago, Roger Avary called and told me his plans for the film”, recalls screenwriter/Sandman-creator Neil Gaiman, “then suddenly I found myself sitting with him in New Mexico writing the script. Bob Zemeckis then came on board to produce, but due to various complications the movie never got made. Roger finally got the rights back and…here we are today!”

With the performance capture process still in its relative infancy, were the writing duo worried about Zemeckis’ vision for the project? “We were definitely concerned that we would lose key elements of performance, because, although there are dragon battles and monster fights, it’s also a drama about people. I was terrified we were going to lose the nuances that make the characters human, but the finished product proves that I had no reason to be worried at all.” It seems, as the movie slowly wended it’s way to the screen, the pair’s enthusiasm for the material remained undiminished: “When I was backpacking across Europe in 1987”, revealed Avary, “the one thing I made sure I saw – apart from the village in The Prisoner – was the original Beowulf pages at the British Museum. Just seeing them gave me so much inspiration.”

With the Vue West End bathed in the warm glow of the specially constructed fire cannons and Crispin Glover insistent on directing the press to his new website, The Most Famous Couple In The Kingdom finally arrive. The noise from the hordes of fans outside reaches new ear-bleeding heights, and a quick wave from a very zippy, off-duty Brad Pitt causes the female members of the press to collapse in fits of giggles and swoons. Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie, dressed to kill in black, has the final word: “I actually think that it’s remarkable the film has the rating it does (12A). But it’s all beautifully presented and there’s humour there too. This movie is such fun. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.”

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