Angelina Jolie has given a number of great performances throughout her career and one of her most intriguing roles can now be seen on Netflix. Beowulf comes from the minds of director Robert Zemeckis, and writers Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary. It is based on the Old English poem of the same name and features the voices of Ray Winstone, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Robin Wright Penn, Brendan Gleeson, John Malkovich, and Crispin Glover.
Scribes Gaiman and Avary had a task on their hands and that was to first make sense of the Old English poem that runs 3,182 alliterative lines, and then turn it into a story for all to follow. As the script story goes, Beowulf tells the tale of the Geatish warrior (Winstone) who travels to Denmark along with his band of merry men to include his best friend Wiglaf. Once they arrive, they meet King Hrothgar (Hopkins) who is in need of a warrior to slay Grendel (Glover), a creature with enormous strength and smarts who killed a number of the King’s soldiers. Beowulf has also caught the eye of the King’s wife, Queen Wealtheow (Wright Penn). Angelina Jolie has a smaller role in this one.
To draw Grendel out into the open, Beowulf and his men celebrate in the mead hall Heorot. It works as the beast appears, ready to destroy all in its path. Beowulf takes on the challenge, deciding to keep the battle even by fighting naked and without weapons.
During their battle, Beowulf discovers that Grendel uses hypersensitive hearing to assist him, so the warrior ruptures Grendel’s eardrums. This causes Grendel to shrink in size but he only escapes after Beowulf severs his arm, a wound the proves fatal. Still, no Angelina Jolie yet though the action has definitely ramped up.
The King is happy and rewards Beowulf with his golden drinking horn, something the King earned for defeating the dragon Fafnir. Grendel makes it back to his cave right before he perishes at the feet of his mother (Angelina Jolie). She swears revenge and will stop at nothing to get it. Grendel’s mother is a Water Demon, this very powerful and seductive. She travels to Heorot and kills each and every man under Beowulf’s command.
Angelina Jolie doesn’t, though, kill Beowulf or Wiglaf, as the two were sleeping outside the hall during her vicious attack. Unferth (Malkovich), is Hrothgar’s advisor and offers his sword to Beowulf to slay Grendel’s mother. Beowulf and Wiglaf then travel to Grendel’s cave, where Beowulf enters alone. Inside, Beowulf finds the demon, but she appears as a beautiful, gold-covered naked woman.
Beowulf still tries to kill her, but her magic is too strong. Instead, Grendel’s mother (Angelina Jolie) seduces Beowulf by promising to make him King if he would give her the drinking horn and a son to replace the dead Grendel. Their kiss seals Beowulf’s fate.
When Beowulf returns to Heorot, he returns with Grendel’s head and fantastic tales of how he killed Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s mother. But Hrothgar isn’t fooled by Beowulf’s tall tales and when they get a moment alone, Hrothgar tells him as much.
Hrothgar understands the demon’s power because she seduced him and Grendel was the result. Bot Hrothgar only cares that Grendel is dead and tells Beowulf that upon Hrothgar’s death, Beowulf will become king. Hrothgar then jumps to his death.
We jump fifty years into the future and King Beowulf is about to pay for his sins. He is estranged from Queen Wealtheow, whom he married after the King’s death. Beowulf is unable to have children as his tryst with Angelina Jolie has left him sterile. His tryst, though, has left him with one other thing. A son, who appears in dragon form, and who is looking to make Beowulf pay.
Robert Zemeckis made Beowulf based on the success he had with The Polar Express. He wanted to use motion capture so he could put the actors in places and situations too difficult for live-action. For the effects, Zemeckis had a 23 x 35-foot stage built. For their performances, the actors were required to wear seventy-eight body markers.
Kenn MacDonald was Zemeckis’ animation supervisor and he used two teams of animators. One team went to work on the facial performances of the actors while the other team worked on body movements.
Beowulf didn’t get the same reaction Zemeckis’ The Polar Express got. His budget ballooned to $150 million and while it brought home $196 million at the box office, it had a hard time finding an audience.
Angelina Jolie only had to put in two and a half days of filming to capture her role. The actress, who truly wanted to work with Zemeckis, was also three months pregnant when she filmed her part. Being new to motion capture caused a bit of concern as to how her character would appear.
“I didn’t expect ourselves to come out as much,” Jolie shared via Movies Online. “I didn’t expect it to feel as real. Because of, especially, the type of character I play, it was kind of funny at first. There were certain moments where I felt actually shy, and called home, just to explain that the fun movie that I had done, that was this digital animation, was in fact a little different than they were expecting.”
Angelina Jolie was married to Brad Pitt at the time and decided to take some time off after Beowulf and the other movie she was shooting at the time, Changeling. Her time off was short-lived and nowhere as long as the four-year hiatus she took between filming The Tourist and Maleficent.
That four-year hiatus compares with another four-year departure Angelina Jolie took recently after she filmed By the Sea in 2015 and returned with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in 2019.
Angelina Jolie now appears to be back on track as she was recently seen in Those Who Wish Me Dead and has two other big projects looming – Marvel’s The Eternals and Every Note Played. You can catch a motion-captured Angelina Jolie in Beowulf, now playing on Netflix.