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Arts & Culture

Comic-Con Spotlight on Beowulf

Gaiman pulled out a piece of paper and said that he was told to announce that this would be the "biggest 3-D release ever in the world." He apologized for only having one reel--and just the second one at that--to show but he said "that's all that exists."

Avary explained that he was attracted to the ancient tale of Beowulf because "it was something that we all had to labor through in school and I wanted to do this to make it easier for the next generation."

Gaiman said "it's the oldest story in the English language..."

"But told with the most modern technology," added Avary. With that they unspooled some footage and you can check out the teaser but you won't have the nifty horn-rimmed 3-D specs to get the full effect.

Watch the trailer for Beowulf .

The footage was impressive on a technical level with the 3-D being a lot crisper and more dynamic than a lot of the stuff done in the past. But there were a few things that were problematic. First, to a certain extent it felt like you were in a video game, and the character movement had just ever so slight a hitch in its fluidity to make you think you weren't watching live actors. Although technically very slick, the eyes of the characters revealed a certain blank quality. It made me think of Blade Runner where you could tell the androids by an ever so subtle quality in their eyes. Here it's the eyes that give them away as animated beings. But there was something intriguing about the process and the story is compelling. I'm definitely interested in seeing how the whole film plays out.

Here's a bit of the post film discussion.

Neil Gaiman: "That was 100% motion capture. What you're seeing is the performances. It was shot two years ago in a studio in L.A. not much bigger than this theater. And it was done with those suits with all the dots on them making them look like Tron . I like to say it's like the cast of doing Shakespeare in the round."

Roger Avary: "There was no artifact of the camera to get in the way. Basically like Beckett, no sets."

Neil Gaiman: "It's digitally enhanced acting."

Question: "Why did you choose to animate it?"

Neil Gaiman: "The problem was how to age the character. When it starts , it's Beowulf in his twenties and then it goes for 50 years."

Roger Avary: "The technology basically liberated us, the aging was no longer a problem."

Neil Gaiman: "But you have to wonder in a world where you have Anthony Hopkins performance up there, could he get nominated for a best supporting actor. It's new technology to tell a very old story."

Question: "What made you want to tell this story?"

Roger Avary: "I grew up loving movies like Excalibur and Legend . But I found myself stuck in this high school English being handed this book. I read it and fell in love with it. It's a monster movie, it has dragons and swords, what's not to love. What interested me was the stuff I felt was being left out. It's a very old tale that used to be told and it's a told tale like the game telephone operator where each person tells something to someone else and then at the end you see how it changed."

Neil Gaiman: "We ended up going to Mexico to write it, that was his idea [pointing to Avary]. I would have gone to Iceland or something."

Roger Avary: "I remember we had trouble with the aging."

Neil Gaiman: "And we were writing with a lot of dialogue because we didn't think we had rhe budget to do what we wanted. We had to bit the bullet because we didn't have the money to do the dragon fight at the end, so we had a lot of talking. We told Bob [director Robert Zemeckis] that we scaled back the fight, it's now Beowulf talking to the dragon, dragon chat. But he said--sounding like your father--there's nothing you can do in the script that won't cost me $1 million a minute. Watching this was like wandering around in a graphic novel. When it comes out you'll ahve three for seeing it: IMAX 3-D, Real 3-D and normal 2D."

Well that was my topper for the first day at the Con. And not a bad way to end the evening.

Check out Neil Gaiman's blog. -----