Movie Review for Beowolf & Grendel (2006)

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Review #216 of 365
Film: Beowolf & Grendel (2006) [R] 106 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $11.75
Where Viewed: Starz FilmCenter at the Tivoli, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 15 August 2006
Time: 5:35 p.m.

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From the outset, allow me to say that I am no expert on Beowolf. I read the epic poem some 20+ years ago in high school as many USAers do. I barely remembered much of it since I've read a few things in between then and now—mostly chemistry textbooks, but anyway. So, my analysis as to how true to the poem the movie is will be brief; and then, as I have done so many times in the past when trying to promote my philosophy that one should wait until after seeing a movie to read the work upon which it was based so as to endure far much less disappointment, I shall move on to an analysis of the movie as it might stand alone.

So, as I understand it from my refresher research via Google®--what did we do before we had the Internet and Google®?—leads me to need to suggest a few places where screenwriter Andrew Rai Berzins may have taken some liberties with the legend when crafting his screenplay. I am not positive on any of these so if I err, dear reader, please forgive and post comments politely so as to guide those I might have misled. First, I cannot find recollection that the grudge between Grendel and King Hrothgar was due to the fact that Hrothgar slayed his father when he was but a bearded infant Grendel. Well, that is the source of the conflict in this film. I do not know if there is a seer in the epic poem named Selma who foretells of Beowolf's death and is the mother of Grendel's son. In the film, Beowolf does not chop off Grendel's arm in battle. He traps him and hangs him from his arm. Grendel saws off his own arm to escape and then bleeds to death in the sea not a swamp. Well, these would seem to me to be pretty major deviations from the story English literature majors have come to love, but I don't know for certain. As I am not a Beowolf purist, they did not bother me.

As for the film itself, now, I shall focus on just the film and not its adherence or lack thereof to the original upon which it was based. Director Sturla Gunnarsson has put on screen (though it seems it may have been filmed in Iceland vs. Denmark) an incredibly rich and colorfully vibrant look at the life of 500 AD Danes and Geatlanders. I saw all of my Heroes of Might and Magic® come to life (I always play the Nordic tribes). So, that part was quite amazing. Meanwhile, the casting director who convinced Stellan Skarsgård to play King Hrothgar and found Gerard Butler and Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson to play Beowolf and Grendel respectively was a genius. They are all perfect. Gerard Butler has all of the qualities I imagine of an ancient 'super' hero. He looks great in long hair, full scraggly beard, and heavy chain mail. Sets, costumes, and event the horses looked incredibly authentic, though I imagine scholars of the era would find countless blunders. All in all, the film is everything that Wolfgang Petersen's Troy was not, and Gerard Butler's Beowolf is everything that Brad Pitt's Achilles was not. If one is going to play an epic hero, one must look like an epic hero. The story is entrancing at times, as we see the moral character of Beowolf come in conflict with those of the king he serves and the encroachment of Christianity. Sara Polley plays the seer Selma, who ultimately beds down both Grendel and Beowolf. Her choppy style of speech and rough Canadian accent was a real draw back at first in accepting her, however that dissipated as the film progressed.

While I am certain that Beowolf scholars will have much to say on the topic of the film and the lack of adherence in many ways to the epic tale, there is no denying that this film and story, in and of themselves, are quite good.

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Other Projects Featuring: Gerard ButlerIngvar Eggert Sigurðsson
Stellan SkarsgårdSarah Polley

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