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March 19, 2008

Review: Beowulf

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 11:04 am

I had a “man date” last night. By that, I mean Lennie called me up to see what I was doing and before i finished saying “eating spaghetti and watching Beowulf” he was somehow in my living room devouring a box of rice krispy treats.

Anyway, we watched Beowulf. This is normally where i’d say Caution: Spoiler alert but it’s fucking Beowulf. You should have read it in 9th grade – and if you didn’t I’m going to ruin it for you right here anyway. It’s like Titanic, or King Kong. The boat sinks, people die, the monster falls off the building – how else do you think he got down?

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s review the movie.

For the fans of the epic, the movie doesn’t really stick to it. It starts out with Hrothgar building his hall and Grendel coming, blah blah blah we all know (or should know) the story. Beowulf comes in and saves the day by ripping off Grendel’s arm. So far, we’re still sticking to the storyline.

When Beowulf kills Grendel, he is given the dragon cup by Hrothgar – the same dragon cup that isn’t mentioned here in the poem version. Ok, so Grendel’s mother comes in and takes her revenge. In the poem she kills 1 or 2 people (I can’t remember) but in the movie version she kills a LOT of people. OK, nice addition, gore is always good.

Speaking of gore, this movie has a LOT of it. If you’re a fan of limbs being ripped off, and blood being drank, then this movie is for you. The effects were pretty well done for an animation, but I can imagine that it looked really cool in 3D at the theater.

Alright, so here’s where things go all crazy. (here’s also where the real spoilers are since this differs from the original.)

Beowulf is sent to kill Grendel’s mother. At this time, it is revealed that Hrothgar is actually Grendel’s father. It’s a nice Oedipal twist, but it doesn’t really stick to the script. Anyway, instead of killing Grendel’s mother and bringing back her head like in the poem, Beowulf sleeps with her and brings back Grendel’s head.

That’s right, the mother somehow turns into Lady MacBeth and tells Beowulf that if he gives her a son and lets her keep the dragon cup, she will make him king and see that no harm comes to him. Upon returning, Hrothgar declares that since he has no son, Beowulf will be his heir. He then jumps off of the ledge into the ocean.

In the original story, it’s not told how Beowulf actually becomes king. They pull a Jesus style trick and leave out many years of his life – so I guess the producers actually had to invent something to explain it.

Ok so Beowulf is king, he’s got the king’s queen, and he’s got himself a little whore as well. Strangely, the queen doesn’t seem to mind. Now, the story gets back on track. The slave finds the dragon cup and brings it back to Beowulf. It’s not clear of the slave stole it from the dragon cave, but that’s what is supposed to have happened.

So now the dragon appears and starts burninating everything and Beowulf has to save the day. In a cool ironic twist, Beowulf actually chops off his own arm in the process of killing the dragon (which, we later learn is his son – another movie twist.) Beowulf dies as a result of his injuries, and then we see the cup wash ashore to the new king. The circle begins again.

Alright, so it’s a gory movie – but it doesn’t really stick to the plot much. In the original, Beowulf is a hero. I’ve even seen him compared to Jesus. In the movie, he has many faults (which, at least he later regrets.) I guess it makes for a more interesting character, but I was expecting the storyline to be the same.

In addition, I’m shocked that Christian groups weren’t protesting the movie in full force. There’s at least 3 scenes where the movie talks down on Christ (which, given the timeframe, panganism was still the major belief and Christianity wasn’t popular at all… at least they stayed true in this respect.)

Is it worth netflixing? Sure – but I wouldn’t buy this one. It actually made me want to rent the 2005 version just to compare.

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