“It was one of those horrible assignments,” says director Robert Zemeckis, echoing every schoolkid who’s ever suffered through the eighth-century epic poem. Translating the Old English into New Multiplex, Zemeckis uses the motion-capture animation of The Polar Express to integrate his actors with the poem’s awesome monsters, though the stars (Ray Winstone as Beowulf, Anthony Hopkins as King Hrothgar, Crispin Glover as a wailing Grendel, Angelina Jolie as his va-va-voom mother) aren’t particularly well served by their doll-like incarnations on-screen. The bolder stroke comes from screenwriters Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction) and Neil Gaiman (the graphic novel Sandman), who’ve turned the arthritic legend into sort of an Arthur Miller play in chain mail. Their story arc brings some legitimate dramatic interest to Beowulf’s climactic battle with the dragon, though it also calls to mind that classic screen credit for The Taming of the Shrew (1929): “By William Shakespeare, with additional dialogue by Sam Taylor.” PG-13, 113 min.