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King Higlack of the Gauths entrusts prince Finn and a fire ball weapon to his champion, slayer Beowulf. They lead twelve men on a mission to help king Hrothgar of the Danes, whose once glorious realm is terrorized by the undefeated monster Grendel. The task is made more difficult as Hrothgar kept gruesome secrets. Written by
Beowulf has gained nothing from Sci-fi Channel's attentions
Where to begin? Anachronism? High tech cross bow with a scope in about 500AD? Arrows with explosive charges in 500AD? A monster Grendel that looks like a robocop and obviously never interacts with any of the weapons fired or swung against him? The heart torn out of his victim's chest without any sense of contact? Possibly the blond who would fit in on a recent fashion show with her make-up and streaked hair? The ancient Danish court represented in Classical Greek style? The queen played by Marina Sirtis more savaged by her makeup artist than by madness? The effects are way too weak to carry this story. There are some stories that don't mind or even benefit from cheap effects, but this Grendel isn't one of them.
What about characters who seem to jump about in their attitudes without motivation? A bravado idiot prince whose home has already been savaged more than once by the monster Grendel seems to have less respect for the danger he faces than Beowulf who was sent from afar from the land of the Geats to help the desperate Danes. In this it feels more like an old cowboy western than any kind of myth.
Beowulf is an ancient tale from an era with almost no literary tradition and much of both its sentiment and its drama is obscure. I suspect that any modern telling which doesn't make an intelligent attempt to penetrate the obscurity must fail. I didn't love the recent "Beowulf and Grendel" which sees Grendel essentially as human and sees Hrothgar and his Danes as too arrogant and stupid to recognize Grendel's attacks as well-justified vengeance, but I had to respect its revisionist position that Hrothgar's Danes were a bunch of macho thugs who never grasped, even after it was all over, that they had brought this nightmare on themselves, and therefore, the original story of Beowulf, as it was written, was a misrepresentation of the real story. I think there's a more complex meaning to be understood than that, but this "Grendel's" terrible secret that Grendel's attacks are tied to previous human sacrifice doesn't really bring us closer to the shame experienced by Hrothgar and the Danes.
This Beowulf has little to recommend it as traditional myth or as modern fantasy. I give it a 4: higher than it deserves, but always hopeful that a poor effort will draw attention by someone who is up to telling the story intelligently. In the meantime, Sci-Fi's movie-making seems to be following the NASA policy that it's better to build lots of probes that fail than a few that succeed.
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