There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is,

the last 20 minutes of Beowulf contains maybe the best, most

spectacular action scene of the year — it must be the most excitingly realized

man-on-dragon beatdown in the history of fantasy filmmaking. The bad news is

you have to sit through the rest of Beowulf to get to it. It’s not

all terrible — the story by Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman is an exceptionally

playful reworking of the source material — but there’s a tension between the

film’s epic ambitions and its awkward, dead-eyed, computer-generated-zombie

protagonists that’s only resolved when it kicks into full action mode. Director

Robert Zemeckis adores the freedom of his virtual camera, sending it swooping

and zooming vertiginously through the animated world at the slightest provocation,

but — like the 3D gimmick — the technical grandstanding only distracts momentarily

from the film’s problems. Happily, the voice performances are first-rate, and

Crispin Glover’s weirdo performance as the monster Grendel deserves some kind

of special Oscar consideration. C+

This review originally appeared in the White Plains Times.