Finally, the long awaited recording is made! Since 1990, Benjamin Bagby has been perofrming the great epic Beowulf at major festivals and venues around the world. Now we have his remarkable... See full summary »
Set against the coming of Christianity, this is the story of the last hero: in 507, a monstrous troll wreaks havoc in the mead hall of the Danish king, Hrothgar. He offers rewards for the death of Grendel, so Beowulf, a great and boastful Geat warrior, arrives with his thanes. Beowulf sets aside his armor and awaits the monster; a fierce battle ensues that leads to Beowolf's entering the watery lair of Grendel's mother, where a devil's bargain awaits. Beowulf returns to Herot, the castle, and becomes king. Jump ahead many years, and the sins of the father are visited upon Beowulf and his kingdom. The hero must face his weakness and be heroic once again. Is the age of demons over? Written by
Grendel and his mother speak Old English. Even though it is the language of the original Beowulf poem, it is not the language spoken in the time and area where the action takes place (East Old Norse is more probable). However, it is "substituting" for Old Norse just as modern English is "substituting" for the Danes' language. See more »
The CGI in this film is good, but CGI still has a way to go if it's to replace real-life. In fact I found the CGI characterisation a little off-putting because some of the characters were clearly supposed to be based on the actors who supplied the voices but I spent the entire film wondering who they were. In this respect I found the choice of Ray Winston for the lead role of Beowulf particularly incongruous because no matter how much CGI is applied to the process of making a film as soon as I hear that voice what I actually see on the screen isn't a muscle-bound (anti-)hero but a fat cockney: Even if Ray Winston were to have a full body transplant (which is effectively what this film gives him) I'd still see a fat cockney on the screen and I'd spend the entire time wondering where he was hiding (or trying to guess who Unferth is, only to find - to my disappointment - that it's a particularly crap attempt to render John Malkovich's face).
I'd say more-or-less the same the 3D element of the film which, though a nice bonus, I found most effective in the film's quieter moments such as the shot along the pebble-beach with the longboat in the distance. All that flying through the air around and about Grendel failed to impress - if anything it just left me feeling dizzy and a little sick.
So what of the adaptation? Well it's terrible, of course, because Hollywood touched it and Hollywood just can't bear to leave any story untouched by its own mutable standards. To put it bluntly: As an adaptation of Beowulf this film is clown shoes. I'd have enjoyed it more, and it would have had more artistic integrity, if Beowulf had a painted face, stick-on nose and a fright wig: At least it would have been an honest statement of intent.
The nearest thing this film has to integrity (bearing in mind that Mel Gibson recently felt free enough to release a film entirely in Aramaic) is Grendel muttering some of his lines in Anglo Saxon, which would be alright were it not for the fact that no-one else in the film speaks in Anglo Saxon, so the effect of this device it to make it appear as if Grendel is speaking his own monster-language, not the same language as everyone else in the epic.
In summary then: This film is a terrible adaptation, with graphics that will look dated by next year, and some awful scriptwriting. Well done lads, you've penned another hit! Hollywood Ending: OTOH if you like Hollywood action movies with a D&D twist (like Eragon & LotR) then this film is for you. You'll spend your £5, you'll laugh, gurn and cry your way through the film and come out the other end of the movie sausage-machine feeling replete.
And more fool you.
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