Beowulf (1999)

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Released 2-May-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Theatrical Trailer-1.78:1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 89:92
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Graham Baker
Studio
Distributor
Kushner-Locke
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Christopher Lambert
Oliver Cotton
Gotz Otto
Layla Roberts
Patricia Velasquez
Rhona Mitra
Case Brackley-Trans-No Lip
RPI $36.95 Music Ben Watkins


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Spanish
Dutch
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Man, Christopher Lambert's career is really going utterly nowhere at all, to put it rather mildly. Based on his acting efforts in some of the most utterly B-grade films I have seen him in, I have come to the conclusion that maybe this is for the best, as his acting is nothing to write home about in any case. Since his appearance in the brilliant sci-fi action epic Highlander, he has appeared in two (or three, I cannot remember which) of the most utterly B-grade sequels to taint any film franchise in history. After the Highlander series came to its much-praised end (so far), not much was heard from Lambert, and the movie-going public heaved a sigh of relief. Sadly, it was not to last for anywhere near long enough, as he then appeared in this completely crappy excuse for a film, where B-grade would be a rather kind way to describe both the script and the direction, not to mention how pathetic the acting is. Still, I guess that is what one has to expect when the cover art contains a bold proclamation that the film is "from the producer of Mortal Kombat", which has to qualify as one of the worst films to be based on a video game.

    The most important point to remember about Beowulf is that for all intents and purposes, there really is no plot. The story is set at an indeterminate point in the future where the Earth has been laid to waste, and the motif was meant to resemble a mixture of the Middle Ages and the post-nuclear world. The only part of this film that reminds us of the fact that we are looking at a time closer to 2500 AD than 1500 AD is the presence of loudspeakers within the castle where most of the action takes place. Beowulf (Christopher Lambert) is a claymore-swinging knight who repeatedly hints that he is immortal and has been walking the earth for a long, long time. During his travels in the earliest parts of the film, he happens across a damsel in distress that some angry villagers have decided to tie to a board and cut in half with a rather crude-looking oversized guillotine. Beowulf rescues this poor woman, and takes her off to his castle, where a rather fake and stupid looking CGI creature has been woodenly munching its way through the populace. Between this creature and its humanoid mother, Kyra (Rhona Mitra), enough stupid dialogue and photography is shared to kill off at least half of a sane audience. Beowulf woodenly and annoyingly hunts the monster down. As far as I am concerned there are two types of extremely bad movie. The first type is the much-loved type in which the film in question is so utterly bad that it becomes good, at least in terms of entertainment value. Beowulf firmly belongs in the other kind of crappy film: the kind where it is so abominably bad that it isn't even worthy of a VHS cassette.

    This film takes me by the hand and leads me towards the conclusion that once you've made an absolute stinker of a film (and I mean one of the second kind) such as Mortal Kombat, you should never be allowed to make another movie for as long as you live. Think of all the agony the human race could be spared if we had such laws in place: Roland Emmerich would never have been allowed to make Godzilla or Independence Day, and the people responsible for Beowulf would not be allowed to do it ever again. We must petition the government of at least every first-world nation to make this law come to fruition; together, you and I can strike a blow against the ability of film studios to tarnish their own catalogues with trash like this!

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is the worst movie I have seen in quite some time, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that this film did not receive a reference quality transfer in deference to the theory I share with many others that the DVD transfer quality is inversely proportional to the artistic merit of the film. The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement. The transfer is razor-sharp from start to finish, with not even the tiniest of the details being hidden by such things as smoke or fog. Shadow detail is excellent, with the deliberate shimmer in such things as the water-coated floor being fully magnified and highlighted in dark combat scenes. The fact that the combination of darkness and the havoc this effect would play on the MPEG compression did not result in artefacts popping up left and right is a credit to whomever supervised the encoding process. No low-level noise made its way into the picture.

    Now, while I am complimenting the transfer itself, you would think that these things would add up to a watchable film and an entertaining visual experience, right? Well, to put the real problem with the visual aspects of this film in a nutshell, the cinematography and the special effects are utter crap. The camera angles used in many shots are just plain nonsensical, and the subjects of many of the shots, especially the CGI portions, are not all that much to rave about, either. The colour saturation was deliberately muted in the scenery, presumably to give this portrayal of the future a certain Mad Max-esque quality, but it was also quite strangely vibrant in such things as the actors. One telltale sign of a crap cinematographer that can be found in this film is the way in which Christopher Lambert's white hair glows like a flashlight in one nighttime sequence.

    There were no MPEG artefacts at any point in the transfer, which is surprising when you consider the stress that some of the aforementioned shots would have placed upon the compression. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor aliasing in some sequences, as well as the odd frame here and there that appeared to be off center with the rest of the film. Film artefacts consisted of some small white marks on the negative, but these were very minor and rare. The artefacts are nowhere near as detrimental to the film as the film itself.

Audio

    For some weird reason, the original English dialogue has been provided in a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded format, whereas the Spanish dub has been encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1, providing a much more irritating sound experience. I can only presume that this is a major error on the part of whomever encoded this disc, and that Columbia will fix this problem, or provide us with an alternate version of the film in which the film becomes watchable. I listened to both audio tracks, and found the Spanish dub to be much more listenable because it made it harder to understand the crap dialogue. The dialogue was perfectly clear and audible at all times, within the limits of Christopher Lambert's tendency to mumble. Audio sync was never a problem, except when the meat-cleaver approach to cutting the film made it a problem.

    The score music is credited to "Ben Watkins for Juno Reactor", while the credits also make mention of a music supervisor by the name of Patricia Joseph. This would imply that someone was standing over the composer in order to make sure that their output complimented the film and remained completely listenable, right? Wrong. The music is about as good as the film it accompanies, and will make you want to grind Ben's and Patricia's fingers into an electric pencil sharpener. In that respect, it was slightly more entertaining than the darn-awful boring excuse for a movie that they were playing at me. In a nutshell, this is a great contender for the title of Numero Uno in "worst film score ever captured on celluloid".

    The surround presence was basically your standard B-grade soundfield, with the surround channels receiving a great deal of use to support the action sequences before the mix reverted to mono for the absolutely awful dialogue. Lots of fake-sounding special effects during such incredulous and utterly ridiculous moments as Christopher Lambert's pointless back-flipping made their way into the rear channels, as did some sword-swinging sounds. The subwoofer made a lot of rumbles and crashes that were mostly in sync with the onscreen action, but the bass channel is so ridiculously overemphasized in the film itself that it soon becomes more of a distraction than anything else. Funnily enough, there was very little to distinguish the Dolby Surround English soundtrack and its Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish besides the very slightly more discreet placement of sounds within the field in the case of the Spanish dub. Both soundtracks sounded a lot like remixes of Dolby Stereo source material.

Extras

    It's a good thing they didn't inflict any more of this film on me, otherwise I would have really gone berserk.

Menu

    The menu is very plain, but functional, and 16x9 enhanced. The scene selection menu gives you the opportunity to fast-forward to all of the crappy scenes you want. Fun.

Theatrical Trailer

    The best two-and-a-half minutes of the film in one airtight capsule. 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    A listing of all the people who should be killed for bringing this film to fruition.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    It appears that Region 1 haven't had this title inflicted upon them yet... lucky them.

Summary

    Beowulf is a strong contender for being formally recognized as the single worst film I have seen in the previous two years. It is presented on a very good DVD.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very ordinary.

    This is one of the few films where I am happy that there are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Wednesday, April 26, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDGrundig GDV-100D/Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsong CS-823AMF (80cm)/Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersPanasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer

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