Beowulf & Grendel (2005) Poster

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From Sheepskin to Celluloid
callmomrad11 October 2005
Breath-taking scenery, strong performances and an unexpected message come together in Sturla Gunnarsson's Beowulf & Grendel. Forget the dusty, inaccessible saga that may have been forced upon you in High School or as a College Freshman in English Lit! New life is breathed into Beowulf, the oldest text of recorded English, first set to sheepskin in 1000 A.D. after 500 years of survival through oral tradition. The acclaimed Canadian director of Rare Birds stays true to the bones of what undoubtedly started as a campfire story of a battle between Man and Monster without resorting to CGI or other special effects. Instead, he relies on the talents of an impressive international cast and an intelligent screenplay against the backdrop of a stunningly primal Icelandic landscape upon which no human had set foot in 800 years. You won't need Cliffs Notes to understand this examination of who and what defines "Other-ness" and how it is treated. The knee-jerk fear factor response is as prevalent today as it was in the early Viking slice-of-life portrayed.

Beowulf & Grendel owes as much to John Gardner's Grendel as it does to the Beowulf epic. The roles of Hero and Monster do not so much embody intrinsic Good and Evil as reflect qualities attributed to their assigned archetypes. How and why we assign those roles is at the heart of the first-ever serious adaptation of the anonymous poem. The movie systematically leads us through a labyrinth of History, Cultures, the psycho-social reaction to Outsiders and the unfortunate results of those actions to the inescapable conclusion that we are not so different from one another. The ensuing Logic would then dictate that War is merely a lazy solution to a problem better addressed by examining our own psyches.

Beowulf is portrayed with astonishing depth by the Scottish actor, Gerard Butler, who is accumulating an impressive array of credits from Attila (the highest-rated U.S. mini-series) to Phantom of the Opera (the lavish 2005 Musical) to Dear Frankie (the award-winning independent Scottish film), to name a few. As always, he throws himself whole-heartedly, thoughtfully, and more important, believably, into the role of Hero, which in less-capable hands might be one-dimensional. Even the screenwriter, Andrew Berzins, was both surprised and impressed by the levels to which Mr. Butler plumbed the character "all in his facial expressions." Rising above his mastery of brooding good looks through tangled locks of hair, he manages to have us look through his eyes, rather than at his eyes - no mean feat for someone who is undeniably easy on the eyes! Beowulf emerges as the antithesis of the later Danish Prince, Hamlet, who is so introspective that he is paralyzed into inaction. In contrast, Beowulf willingly accepts the yoke of the traditional Hero and initially and immediately acts without thinking. He recognizes his Destiny in this life and beyond, stating, "I'll go where I'm sent!" He does not, however, stop there. Delving into the reasons behind his mission, he becomes a relentless, if uneasy, historical detective, needing to unearth the cause of the troll/monster Grendel's savagery.

The Hero's journey, punctuated by pre-destined acts of violence, is one in which we participate and evolve along with Beowulf, with the assistance of the witch, Selma (appropriately ambiguously played by the popular Canadian actress, Sarah Polley). Although she and Beowulf do pair off at one point, theirs is not really a romantic connection. She serves as a sort of conduit between Beowulf and Grendel, leveling the playing field between them.

Grendel is splendidly brought to heartbreaking life by Iceland's biggest Star, Ingvar Sigurdsson. Interestingly, his 4-year-old son makes a very credible acting debut as the young Grendel, orphaned in no uncertain terms at the start of the movie and laying the foundation for the carnage to come. Harking more to Gardner's Grendel than the unremittingly bloodthirsty troll of the original poem, Mr. Sigurdsson manages to express both the innocence and tragedy of Grendel with gusto, exploring his un-human characteristics without judgment. It is a tribute to his talent that rather than being horrified by a scene in which we see Grendel bowling with victims' severed heads, we identify with the spirit of pure Joy breaking through a monster's lonely existence.

Providing a context for the Hero/Monster mythos is a superb cast of supporting characters. Stellan Skarsgard is the alcoholic Danish king Hrothgar, not only unwilling to accept responsibility for the scourge of Grendel, but not even wanting to consider "why a f***ing troll does what a f***ing troll does." Eddie Marsden plays the foaming-at-the-mouth crazed Irish Catholic priest, Brendan, heralding the advent of Christianity and the desire of a people to unburden themselves of any and all accountability for their actions. And Ronan Vibert embodies the equivalent of modern day mass media as the Bard, Thorkel, through whom the saga is transformed (over Beowulf's objections) into a revisionist history which does not bear close examination. As Martin Delaney notes as the young warrior, Thorfinn, what we are left with are "tales of sh*t." The old Beowulf is not gone. The tone of the original oral tradition is maintained by Berzins' strict adherence to Anglo-Saxon and Norse root words and an ongoing thread of bawdy humor against a relentless musical score rife with tribal drums. The comic relief serves, as in Shakespeare's tragedies, to lighten and make palatable the raw impact of some harsh realities revealed. But a new Beowulf & Grendel rises from the ashes. This blood and guts epic, with its undeniably spiritual undercurrent, balances swordplay with word play, and the audience is left to draw their own conclusions in the bloody aftermath. The tag line, "Heads will roll!" refers not only to the blood-soaked battle scenes, but to the thought processes set in motion that will leave you re-evaluating concepts of and motives behind Love, Loyalty, and War long after you leave the theater.
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Beowulf and Grendel: an Updated Classic
beylim26 September 2005
This is a very updated version of the Anglo-Saxon poem "Beowulf," using contemporary English.This movie still has the mythical, epic qualities of the poem that have inspired readers throughout the ages. In an excellent performance, Gerard Butler effectively captures the conflicted hero Beowulf as he endures the slow erosion of his military code of conduct. Beowulf & Grendel is more than a story of blood and war. Themes of vengeance, loyalty and mercy are powerfully entwined with the beginnings of Christianity in southwest Sweden in 500 AD. Another theme which is explored is human inability to tolerate that which is different. Gerard Butler is extremely effective as Beowulf, but perhaps the best performance in the movie is that delivered by the tempestuous and weirdly beautiful land of Iceland. I think this movie is definitely worth seeing.
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Lovely film
losdzez23 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The first clue that this film is a different take on the story is the title. Rather than simply depicting Beowulf's killing of a one-note Grendel as metaphor for good triumphing over evil, it is the story of the intersection of two fully realized, complex characters. This retelling wants us to rethink the simplistic concept of good and evil. The first step is to give us a Grendel we can understand, and a Beowulf weary enough of war to try.

Beowulf is a man used to that simplistic concept of war as good versus evil – he's cool and efficient at killing, and when Hrothgar calls he's ready to put Grendel's head on a pole. But he's thrown off balance when Grendel won't engage. He becomes a sort of detective, not the warrior of legend but the imperfect man behind it, simply trying to get his bearings. With Butler's presence and nuanced performance, Beowulf may not be the mythically embellished warrior but is nonetheless wholly compelling, and on a human scale, heroic.

Skarsgard is amazing as King Hrothgar, a man self-destructing as he helplessly watches Grendel killing his people, consumed with hiding the fact that the catalyst was his own reckless action. Words like "walks on water" come to mind when describing Skarsgard's work. (His performance in "Aberdeen" is not to be missed).

Grendel, in an inspired performance by Ingvar Sigurosson, is a physically frightening brute with the heart of a small boy who loves his father and hates the ones who killed him. And he's smart – smart enough to make buffoons out of Hrothgar and Beowulf at turns. Even without dialogue, Sigurosson gives us that Grendel we can understand.

Selma, portrayed like the glassy calm surface of a deep river by Sarah Polley, is the conscience of the piece. Her gaze is wide open - holding no illusion about the goodness of human nature – and rather discomfiting to Beowulf. She's delicate and powerful, and as cool and efficient at surviving as Beowulf is at being a warrior. Beowulf goes to her for answers, but not the ones he ends up getting.

Andrew Rai Berzins' script is crisp and wry, and short on exposition, relying instead in great measure on the collaboration of the actors to tell the story, and they deliver. Hrothgar tells us with one subtle look exactly what he thinks of the blathering, apoplectic priest. Instead of writing a line of dialogue, Berzins allows Hondscioh (Tony Curran) to speak to us silently, his expression slowly reflecting the dread he sees on the faces of his mates as they realize he's just earned Grendel's wrath. And Grendel doesn't play around - much.

This film is truly a team effort, and this is the kind of team we root for. With Berzins' thoughtful and humorous script reflecting the real camaraderie of the talented cast, and Gunnarsson's direction reflecting his obvious love both for the story and for Iceland, we get a moving and beautiful film.

Usually warrior epics end with the hero vanquishing his foe in some brave and spectacular way. For this team's Beowulf, the real foe is thoughtless intolerance – something not even a hero can vanquish, except within himself.
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Review from 2005 TIFF
riid18 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival.

Beowulf and Grendel is based on the Old English epic poem of the same name. It follows Beowulf, a Geat, who travels with his compatriots to Denmark and the realm of King Hrothgar (Stellan Skarsgård), which is besieged by a great monster, Grendel (Ingvar Sigurdsson). Beowulf repeatedly tries to draw Grendel out to do battle, but soon finds from the witch Selma (Sarah Polley) that there may be more the story than meets the eye.

Historical purists will probably take issue with the portrayal of the story and with the dialogue. However, judged on its own merits, Beowulf and Grendel is a fine film. The film looks epic, thanks to the on-location filming in Iceland. Butler is suitably heroic, and Sigurdsson does well with a role that has essentially no dialogue, what with being a sub-human troll and all. Screenwriter Andrew Rai Berzins makes use of slightly more contemporary language in the script, but without any ill effect. Director Sturla Gunnarsson has made some interesting casting choices, with Scots actors as the Geats (who are actually from Sweden), Nordic actors as the Danes, and Canadian Sarah Polley as Selma. The cast acquits themselves well, including Polley, whose Canadian accent serves to show her character's isolation from the rest of the community.

Director Sturla Gunnarsson, screenwriter Andrew Rai Berzins, and actor Tony Curran did a Q&A after the film:

  • They took a lot liberty with the story, especially as the poem has speeches that go on for pages. They decided to cut loose from it right away, and instead portray the story that would become the poem. As Gunnarsson put it, they tried to be true to "the bones of the story." Since the poem dates back to a Norse oral tradition, where poets would embellish stories with each telling, Gunnarsson felt they could do some of the same.

  • There were a number of problems during filming, as they started shooting several months later than planned. At the time, there were a lot of hurricanes in the Atlantic, which results in very high winds. They lost four base camps, and in a single day lost eight vehicles to the 150 km/h winds.

  • The ship used by the Geats is actually the Islendingur, a replica of a Viking ship from 870 AD, originally built to commemorate the anniversary of Leif Ericson's voyage to North America. The boat leaked, so four fire pumps were required to keep it afloat. However, for long shots of the boat in an iceberg-filled lagoon, the pumps had to be shut off and footage gathered quickly.

  • Grendel is supposed to have the strength of 30 men, but at the same time he is not a god, which it makes hard to portray him on screen. They didn't want to create a fantastical movie, so they decided early on not to use any CG for Grendel.

  • The horses used in the movie are Icelandic horses, which have three gaits unique to the breed, and uniquely suited to travel over the rocky terrain.

  • The palette for the costumes if taken from the landscape.

  • When casting Beowulf, they wanted someone unambiguously masculine, who could act, and who could bring some complexity to the role. Gunnarsson had seen some of Gerard Butler's films. While they weren't his cup of tea, he did find that Butler jumped off the screen.

  • Gunnarsson and Polley have known one another for years. She loves Iceland and had asked to be cast in whatever he decided to film there next. Gunnarsson feels that Polley brings something to the moral conscience of the story.

  • For Grendel, Gunnarsson had consulted with creature makeup director Nick Dudman, who has also worked on the Harry Potter films Dudman said that he could build prosthetics, but it would really all come from the actor.

  • Sigurdsson read the script and was drawn to Grendel without any prompting from Gunnarsson. While in a bookstore in Reykjavik, an American tourist noticed that script and recommended John Gardner's book Grendel, which tells the story from Grendel's perspective.

  • They weren't originally allowed to cast Skarsgård as he is not from the UK, Iceland, or Canada. On appeal to the UK authorities, they eventually agreed that it would be all right for a Norseman to play another Norseman.

  • They wanted the Geats to look like a gang of bikers, not some sort of museum piece.

  • On the use of humour in the script, Berzins said that there is humour in everything, and that he is frustrated by historical movies with no humour.

  • Berzins said about the use of the f-word in the movie that the f-word is actually quite old, but he does realize that some people are brought forward in time when they hear it. Skarsgård was originally not a fan of its use, but by the end he was using it liberally.

Spoilers below:

  • They tried to stay close to the story, but in the original, none of the characters have much in the way of motivation; Grendel just shows up and starts killing people. They felt that either he's simply evil, or he has a reason, which opens up all sorts of possibilities.

  • They felt that this is a good time in history to explore the hero-myth. Beowulf is essentially a story about a warrior that goes overseas to fight a righteous quest but soon finds himself embroiled in a tribal war.

  • Tony Curran said that his favourite scene is the one where the young Grendel is holding his father's severed head. Berzins' favourite is the one where Tony's character destroys the skull, he looks up, and you can see doom descend on him. Gunnarsson's favourite is Skarsgård's disintegration at the end.
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How much do you want to think?
lisapizzapie28 September 2005
Bear with me while I transpose my thoughts from my tangential, blonde head and hopefully it will be worth your read.

Let me first say that Grendel engaged me throughout the movie. There were good performances by many of the cast (Butler's conflicted hero, Skarsgard's noble-but-not-so-noble king) , but Ingvar Sigurdsson owned it as Grendel. Was it the skill of the writer and director in making Grendel a vulnerable human(?) and victim (drawing a sympathy vote from the audience)? Was it Ingvar Sigurdsson's acting skills to express intense emotions and engage the audience despite virtually any words in the script and enough prosthetic make-up to impede facial expressions? All I know is that I connected with Grendel's pain. And isn't that the point?

Another prominent character was the weather. It wasn't on the casting list, but it showed up nonetheless and fought for top billing. It helped to draw you into the ruggedness of the times and the story, but I also found it distracting. Perhaps it's my own distractibility, but for whatever reason, the scenery and weather engaged me more than the story a few times.

The soundtrack was indeed beautiful, but personally, I don't think it fit. To me, the campfire-to-mead-hall timeless folktale would have been better served by a more primitive collection of instruments rather than the majestic orchestra suited to an epic. But that's just my taste.

My main criticism is that to me, the film seemed choppy. I felt like I missed out on some important parts. (I didn't take any washroom breaks, did I?) It may have been the editing. There are others who enjoyed the film much better at the second viewing, so maybe it's all there in the movie beyond my distraction by the scenery and Gerard Butler's rugged good looks. Maybe the movie did its job; after all I'm still chewing on it 2 weeks later. Who knows? I did, however, catch the humor in the film. Andrew Rai Berzins' sharp wit and humor came to the rescue and drew me back in when distractions prevailed.

I'd really like to see it a second time now that my giddiness is over. I was anticipating this movie from the time filming began, and what film can live up to a year's worth of my ruminations and expectations? Now, don't ask me to rate the film with a number. I hate numbers. They don't mean anything. You should never see a movie based on numbers. See it because you want to.

…and if my review left you with more questions than answers, then I've done my job, because that's where the movie left me. Now go see the movie and find your own questions and answers.
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Sturla Gunnarsson's "Beowulf & Grendel" is a Must-See
merley4617 October 2005
I was fortunate to see Sturla Gunnarsson's "Beowulf & Grendel" at the Toronto International Film Festival. This film is MUCH MORE than the long epic poem we read in high school! It is a film infused with humor, heart, suspense, and qualities of character and motivation which make it memorable indeed! Yes, there is violence, but that is the nature of the beast, so to speak. The story tells of people living in rather primitive circumstances (compared to modern Western standards) and war is a way of life. Without going into the story, it can safely be said that the introduction of the hero Beowulf (wonderfully played by Gerard Butler) leads to a tale of honor, friendship, loyalty, bravery, horror, and retribution. The musical score, sets, costumes, armor and weaponry, and especially the landscape (filmed entirely in Iceland!) add to the splendor of this movie. I have recommended B&G to our friends, and we hope it is widely distributed.
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I loved it ...
byrm29 September 2005
I saw Beowulf & Grendel in Toronto at the TIFF and I loved it. The film was beautiful to behold ~ breathtaking scenery of Iceland set alongside a moving and powerful score. The entire cast delivered strong performances. Gerard Butler was a magnificent Beowulf ... emoting the torment of his soul with tender subtlety yet never compromising the intrinsic brutality and strength vital to his character. The story, modified from its original literary version to adapt to a contemporary audience, was profoundly relevant to today's political and social climate. A pleasant surprise in the film is the clever use of unexpected wit and wry humour. If you enjoy a film that will make you think ... this one is for you. natalie(
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A horrendous adaptation.
solarmacharius-112 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Having anticipated this movie for months, I can only say that I am horrendously disappointed by the way this film was presented. The landscape and costuming was well done, but that was about it. The dialogue was woefully unsuited to the type of story presented (I was looking for dialogue written to the standards of Lord of the Rings, what we got was more suited to a summer action movie). I cannot believe the amount of swearing in the movie; while the Danes would have cursed, they wouldn't have been dropping the f-word constantly.

I am disappointed in the character of Beowulf. As the film goes on, the protagonist begins to question the morality of his role in the Grendel affair. From my understanding of the morals of the culture of the time, Beowulf should have had no problems with killing Grendel. The monster had killed kinsman of his kinsman, which brought Beowulf into the whole affair. Even if the deaths of these men was retribution for the killing of Grendel's father, the hero was morally obliged to avenge Hrothgar's kin.

The character of Selma is hopelessly contrived and unnecessary. The quiet acceptance of her own violation is extremely troubling, as was her defense of Grendel. Her role was unnecessary in the movie; there was already enough plot elements to cause Beowulf a quandary without her, especially the way the king was walling apart. On a stylistic note, it would have been nice if the actress could have made an effort to speak in a different accent... she was completely out of place among all the British and Scandinavian accents otherwise featured.

This is capped by the very poor explanation of many characters, especially Queen Wealhtheow, King Hygelac, and Grendel's Mother. Their existence is not explained, nor even their names. This made the movie hard to follow, especially when Grendel's Mother entered the picture. Several of my companions thought that she was Grendel and Selma's child's real mother! I am normally willing to give some leeway to adaptations, but this movie was undeniably bad. The plot development was slow, the characters were confusing, and many of the elements (Selma, the Christians) did nothing for the real plot. I regret having spent money to see it.
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An historical action film with a twist
sciencenut27 December 2005
I was fortunate enough to view the world-premiere performance of Beowulf and Grendel at the Toronto International Film Festival this past September 14th, and I found it to be a hauntingly beautiful film, with some surprising comedic moments added into the mix. All of the lead actors (especially Gerard Butler as Beowulf and Stellan Skarsgard as the King) were superb in their roles, and although I have never read the original epic poem, I found that the story was very well-told and that the director and his cast definitely succeeded in delivering the many-layered messages of racial tolerance, bravery and the real meaning of heroism. The Icelandic setting was absolutely breathtaking, and I certainly agree that it became an additional character and an essential part of the story as well. Finally, the bits of comedy which resulted from Beowulf's interactions with his band of warriors were a welcome and realistic addition to a story that could have easily taken itself too seriously and become bogged down in melodrama. I highly recommend this film to those who enjoy cinematic experiences which fall outside (and well above) the normal Hollywood, cookie-cutter action films. I am also looking forward to its wide release (I hope) here in North America in the next few months, since one viewing of this weirdly wonderful film is definitely not enough!
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$60 in gas- worth every penny!
paristeri12 October 2005
I afforded myself the opportunity to see this movie since it was showing in the same hemisphere I live in and I write this in hopes that somehow Cyb space thoughts will be transmitted to those who distribute movies. My hope is that others will be able to see this version of an ancient tale that holds so much relevance to the world we live in without having to leave their country to do it. Though I have to say Canada, in particular Vancouver is beautiful! I have never done so much homework before seeing a movie- re-read the poem Beowulf, read John Gardner's book GRENDEL and read many of the very clear statements at the Beowulf and Grendel website by the screenwriter- Andrew Berzins, who indicated that this story had been passed around for possibly centuries in the oral tradition and this was just one more possible version. So much of Western Civilization's history has come to us written down by Christian men and as such carries a certain bias. This is simply a GOOD story told with some interesting twists, fantastic landscape, and superlative acting. Provides an excellent forum to think about what does the heroic myth really refer to, and maybe we should rethink the concept of pairs of opposites-good/evil, black/white, innocent/guilty, beauty/ugliness, sane/insane.. I have a feeling that someday mankind will figure out that we are actually both sides at different times and respect that in each other. Very thought provoking movie that I hope to see in my neighborhood theater soon!
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what a disappointment!
stults71 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Being a Beowulf fan, and having three teen daughters who think Gerry Butler is "hot," we waited over a year before this movie was shown in our area. The first shocker was that most of the audience was older than me: a Gerry Butler fan club of past-middle aged women in Viking hats salivating on their Butler action dolls. Will the fat lady please sing so this show can end?

To interpret Beowulf as a know-nothing who has to learn about integrity (and the sins of his friend Hrothgar) from the misunderstood and noble Grendel is just plain blasphemy. Making Hrothgar a ruthless idiot and his wife a long-suffering (can she roll her eyes just one more time?) care-giver of his majesty's reputation is pitiful.

To make a heathen witch the truth-teller in a story that was written clearly to underscore the Christianization of Scandinavia is scandalous; however, the biggest transgression from the original tale is the battle where Grendel cuts off his own arm. Please!

The scenery of Iceland was the one redeeming aspect of this movie.
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A perhaps nuanced view of the movie?
paterfam00119 March 2006
My motive for seeing this film was mostly curiosity. I read it long ago (in a past almost as dim and distant as the times of the Geats), as a requirement for Grad English, and I wanted to know what a more modern sensibility would make of it. On the whole, I thought the film-maker was confused by it, and was forced by his twenty-first-century prejudices to turn it into something it wasn't. What he did, in fact, was feminize it.

If this had been the result of real artistic vision, it might have worked, but it wasn't; it was done by the book, in a Sensitivity 101 fashion, and inconsistently, so that the result wasn't either mythic or modern. Or not the way the film-makers hoped, anyway. Instead of being a synthesis, it was an uneasy mix.

Oh, it was moderately entertaining to a modern man and woman, the scenery was magnificent and the cinematography splendid - almost a given, these days. The acting, with one important exception, was very good. I'm glad I saw that and not... what was the other one? Snow dogs in Peril? Oh, 'Eight Below'. 'Beowulf and Grendel' was actually about something, and not just 'based on actual events' - the usual witless excuse for a dull and meandering story.

What was Beowulf about? Originally - think about this - the tellers and hearers of this tale lived the dullest and most dangerous existence possible. They were pioneers, always on the jagged edge of starvation, faced with endless toil and unremitting vigilance, just to survive against an unremittingly hostile environment. They must have longed for a single villain, an enemy they could strike at and defeat, once and for all. Thus, Grendel. Grendel is all their fear and drudgery rolled into one. And Beowulf. He is them, all rolled into one, their collective courage and strength.

It might be possible to adapt this to modern ideals, but it has to be re-imagined, which likely means changing time and place to, let's say, the recent old-west, the populace to sodbusters, the Grendel-menace to an unbeatable black-hat gunslinger and the hero to the man in buckskin. You can't just graft modern attitudes onto ancient warriors and pretend you've done something new and significant.

The addition of the witch, Selma, played by my countrywoman Sarah Polley, is the worst of the modernist grafts. She plays the part almost without affect, as if all her actions were the product of cool rational thought, and didn't matter very much, anyway. I picture the director ranting at her in Icelandic, while a very polite translator murmurs, "more intense, please". I hate to bad-mouth one of the more intelligent actresses of our time, and one most loyal to her Canadian Roots, but she really dropped the ball on this one, and it affects the whole movie's credibility. If she'd been crazier, dirtier, more savage, more a part of the threatening Other, the role might have worked. Since she chose to preserve the proprieties of a modern girl --don't flip out, even when a troll is ravishing you -- she sinks the whole enterprise.

Final comment: handsome, amusing, entertaining, but highly flawed.
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I really liked it.
ashwetherall129 October 2014
This version of Beowulf & Grendel doesn't stay true to the epic poem, if you want that version see the animated feature. This version instead try's to de-construct the poem into a realistic mainly non fantastical movie. There are no real villains in this film. just people trying to conquer their fear and ignorance. Grendel is depicted as the last of his race. A sad ,confused and ultimately wronged creature out for revenge but also capable of pathos and even shows signs of a sly sense of humour.

The cinematography is absolutely astounding the use of natural light really adds another dimension to this film. I would have to say it is the most beautifully shot film of the last 20 years.

As for the acting Gerard Butler gives another excellent performance as the world wiry Beowulf as dose Stellan Skarsgård as the king trying to come to term with his past and conscious. Only the slightly miss cast Sarah Polley lets the acting stakes down a little. Her character seems somewhat out of place in this film. but this is only a small gripe. I would recommend this version of Beowulf & Grendel to those who like their historical films to have a more realistic edge.
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Why, oh why, must they mess with the source material?
moviemom2615 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Beuwulf is a great piece of literature. Why did the writers mess with a good thing? I'm surprised no one started singing "Kum ba ya". Grendel is a monster not a victim. When did Hrothgar start drowning his sorrows in mead? The writers of Conan the Barbarian would have done a much better job.

What is Brendan the Navigator doing in there? Perhaps to take cheap shots at Christians. Completely unnecessary to the movie and a big disappointment.

It could have been a good movie if the writers had been faithful to the original. Then perhaps it wouldn't have gone strait to video.

On the plus side it was filmed in Iceland and the stark landscape added a lot of feel to the movie. The actors all did a fine job with what they had.
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Bizarre, beautiful tale
lovetowrite20042 October 2005
I was fortunate enough to see the world premiere of this film in Toronto last month. I expected it to be unusual, and it certainly was! The story of Beowulf is an ancient one, and told beautifully and powerfully in this amazing cast lead by the incomparable Gerard Butler. The Icelandic landscape lent the perfect backdrop to this gripping story of a man (Beowulf) who is drawn into a terrible situation of revenge and retribution, which turns out to be far more complicated than he had initially imagined. Butler is simply excellent in the role, his mix of sheer masculinity and intelligence the perfect combination for the complex character he portrays. The only part I was not thrilled about was Sarah Polley- who's Canadian accent really stood out amid the mix of Scottish, English and Scandinavian accents. I thought her character, while crucial to the plot, was a little too modern in some respects, and her inability (or perhaps reluctance) to attempt a modicum of an accent really stood out for me. Minor detail I know, and in the big scheme of things not a big deal. Is it worth seeing? Absolutely!!! It's quite violent, so be warned- not for the faint of heart.
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AWFUL -- "Why Can't We All Just Get Along?" -- suggested alternative title.
thepurr7 January 2007
This movie was watchable if you have never read the original, in addition to having no taste for heroic tales whatsoever, but otherwise avoid it. The original story was basically replaced with a soppy morality tale.

"Gosh, Grendel is just so darn misunderstood!" should have been the tagline for this anti-hero flick hacked out of solid source material.

The language was neither modern nor ancient nor beautiful (like Lord of the Rings), nor authentic, but somehow seemed cobbled together from the worst of each of these. This is a movie which screamed for subtitles, but in retrospect, I'm glad they were omitted, sparing me the pain of having to deal with the poor lines twice. The costumes looked authentic in style, and the terrain was well chosen, but it was all wasted on the directing, which failed to make the most (or most anything) out of what was there.

The writers obviously hated "Beowulf", the original, and made this movie their soapbox to say so.

Watch this movie if it shows up in the dollar bin, and only if you've never had a taste for the ancient tale and have absolutely no other use for the next two hours.
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Void of excitement
psiguy20 January 2007
Despite some breathtaking scenery - there's little entertainment to be had here. The filmmakers seem intent on humanizing the story - which I applaud them for - but that doesn't mean they couldn't have a little fun now and then. Even the fights - which are few and far between - don't do much to quicken the pulse. Even the bizarrely odd Christopher Lambert Beowulf had some excitement for Pete's sake.

Gerard Butler does little to help matters, delivering a fairly charisma free performance as Beowulf. And I guess he felt his Scottish accent was close enough to the Scandinavian brogue used by most of the cast. Sara Polley is absolutely grating as Selma - and makes no attempt at an accent whatsoever. At least Stellan Skarsgard lets loose from time to time as Hrothgar.

The directing is downright odd. Gunnarsson doesn't seem to know quite where to put the camera. Capturing action is not the same thing as directing action.

I know it may seem harsh - but I'm going to have to give this a 3.
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A wasted opportunity.
gulag3 October 2006
I didn't read anything before watching this. I was hoping that in the aftermath of Lord of the Rings Beowulf might also be a fairly good film. It looks good. The weather is great. Iceland is a joy to see. But that's about it. They really wasted a fine chance to bring us the dark ages in mythic form. And they really destroyed the meaning of the story.

The worst parts are these: Grendel is made into a sympathetic human figure who basically just speaks a different language. The real Grendel is a bloodthirsty carnivorous monster and is the inspiration for Tolkien's Gollum. He's much more like an animal than human. Thus a whole subplot about Grendel's hurt feelings makes the story into an oddly politically correct mess at its core.

Selma... Who the hell is Selma? Just a trendy pretty witch girl. She represents the old magic. She is sensitive and pseudo-mysterious. Now I like Sarah Polley as an actress. But without some dialogue coaching here, she sounds like a refugee from "The Craft", not someone from the past. And her and her son's hairstyles are likewise so much anachronistic tripe. And what was going on with her and Grendel? Brendan the Celtic Priest? Umm, do you think Europe was really Christianized by buffoons like this? This was just a poorly written "comment" upon the Christian implications of the original story. Or rather one more chance to say that the wonderful pagan world was ruined by idiot Christians. If they were going to get all of the Christianity out of the narrator's version they should have just done that without the unclever potshot at Christianity.

Beowulf. Not a bad actor, but where did he get that "What the F..." lingo? Let's just blame the low grade imagination of the screenwriter.

There are I suppose people who don't really care about the original poem. And people who will mistake this for some sort of treatment of the dark barbarian times. Don't be one of them. Educate yourself. Read the original.

The sad thing is that it will be years before someone can attempt to remake Beowulf as it should be done. They wasted their chance.
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Very disappointing
bentcigarette16 October 2006
To those who have read and have any appreciation of the original poem, then this movie adaptation will be very disappointing. It bears a passing resemblance to the poem, but could hardly be called "faithful" in either a literal sense or even from the point of an adaptation that attempts to capture the spirit of the source, if not the exact plot.

Grendel here is not a terrifying opponent. He's just a dumb brute. Beowulf is not all that heroic. He just happens to be pretty handy with a sword.

The setting is very beautiful and the performers did an adequate job with a weak script, so I don't blame any of them personally. This just isn't a good adaptation. It lacks an epic scope or even a feeling similar to that. And there's very little to cause you to feel any connection to any of the characters.

I would suggest that anyone interested in this movie read the poem instead.
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Needs a tighter script and better editing
jack_thursby14 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Most of the reviews on "Beowulf and Grendel" are misleading -- this film isn't very good. Its obviously made by "arthouse-movie-people" so the cinematography is good but everything else is lacking (i.e., direction, script and pacing). I was disappointed because the script takes a lot of liberties with the actual story, so much so, that only the character names, locations and the ending (partly) are the same as the epic poem.

There's so many problems with this movie that for the sake of efficiency, I'm just going to list them:

1) The movie is too long. There's a lot of camera sweeps and landscape shots that add nothing to the story but plenty to the length of the film. I didn't want to watch a documentary on the Icelandic landscape, I wanted to see a movie with characters and a story.

2) The Sarah Polley subplot. Sarah Polley plays a witch who clues Beowulf as to why Grendel is attacking. But the witch subplot is forced and feels grafted onto the story. It should have been chopped because its unnecessary -- it seems like they just wanted Sarah Polley in the movie so they wrote this whole subplot just for her. And it was pretty disgusting in the end... if you think about it, it was really disgusting and I wonder just what the hell the film-makers were thinking. They have some serious, serious problems.

3) None of the characters are likable. They grumble, they scowl and they look despondent 90% of the time. There was no character development so there's no attachment as to what happens to them. Half the guys looked the same with long beards and scowls so you never knew who died.

4) The changes to the story were poor. There's a reason the story of Beowulf is considered an epic that has been remembered for hundreds of years -- its a great, great story. Did the film-makers really think that they slap a story together in a few months that would be better than an epic that has withstood the tests of time? If it ain't broke don't fix it, you can't improve on a work of art such as Beowulf, so why rewrite it? Its like repainting the Mona Lisa to add some zazz.

So, unless you like watching endless scenes of the Icelandic landscape and of bearded men, indistinguishable from each other, walking and riding through the Icelandic landscape while scowling, skip this snoozefest, you'll be glad you did.
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Worst Movie Ever
taraviolet919 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
There is not a real spoiler here, but I talk about a few things that happen in the movie.

The lighting is awful in this movie. It changes from a sunny afternoon to nighttime in a second. The script is horribly written with lines such as "that troll didn't give a s&%# about us" and stuff like that. There is no climax nor is there well acting, or an intriguing storyline. The movie is entertaining in a crappy, badly made, funny kind of way.

The troll is a huge being with fuzzy boots and little shirts. He plays bowling with human skulls, talks in a made up language, and even sleeps with Bewoulf's love, an eccentric young woman. The whole movie is a chaotic mess. There is serious editing that should have been done, and stupid lines that have no meaning in the movie.

Do not see this film
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Not that great
milaborland12 March 2006
I have to admit I was very disappointed with this movie. I love Beowulf but I felt this movie really didn't come close to portraying what the story is all about. First of all, transitions from scene to scene were extremely choppy. I know the story well and yet I couldn't follow it during certain parts. My boyfriend (who has never read Beowulf) was often lost throughout the movie. He had to ask me what was going on, who that character was, etc...

I found the characters were poorly established. With the exception of Grendel, it was hard to figure out who was who. The clothes of the King and Queen were the only things that signified who they were. (Unfortunately, the wardrobe & Wealhtheow's jewelery seemed so out of place in Iceland, among a population of 30 people and two houses.)

The most disappointing aspect for me was Hrothgar's character. He was made into a drunken, pathetic fool who knew all along why Grendel was terrorizing the Danes but chose to keep it a secret. Ultimately, Hrothgar serves to guide Beowulf throughout his life. He acts as Beowulf's moral aid and represents stability, heroism, and leadership. Why the screen writers or director felt the need to portray Hrothgar the way they did I do not know.

While I really enjoyed Gerard Butler's performance I didn't see the true Beowulf coming through. The story of Beowulf prides itself in the hero's astonishing heroism and great warrior skill against the supernatural creatures he has to fight. In the movie, Beowulf did not fight Grendel once. Even more irritating was how short and lacking the fight between Beowulf and Grendel's mother was. What I did like about Beowulf was the sincerity of his character. The way he saw through the Danes' hatred of Grendel and why Grendel is a monster, was very characteristic of Beowulf.

I also enjoyed Grendel's character. It was refreshing to find myself sympathizing with the monster after he cuts his arm off to free himself. The notion that Grendel is truly a genuine and harmless creature unless provoked was a nice touch. It definitely added some feeling to a movie otherwise lacking. I also enjoyed the actor playing Grendel. He did a great job!

It was nice to see Sarah Polley on screen but I have to agree with one of the other posters, her lines did seem rather contemporary. That and the odd swear word thrown in by Beowulf and Hrothgar. It really didn't fit and I think they could have conveyed just as much frustration and anger without cursing. Also, Sarah Polley's lack of accent didn't really fit. Her scenes however, were some of the few I enjoyed.

Overall, I was quite disappointed with the movie. I can't say I didn't enjoy myself because I love the story of Beowulf but I really expected something much better.
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Based on a legendary and mythical poem and filmed in marvelous landscapes from Iceland
ma-cortes12 May 2012
In a medieval land is set this blood-soaked tale of a Norse warrior (Gerard Butler)'s battle against the great and murderous troll, Grendel (Ingvar Egger) . In a besieged land , Beowulf must battle against the hideous creature Grendel . As a flesh-eating creature called Grendel is killing off all those who live in the kingdom . That is until the arrival of Beowulf, a mysterious mercenary who offers Hrothgar, the kingdom's ruler, help to hunt Grendel . Out of allegiance to the King Hrothgar (Stellan Skarsgard) , the much respected Lord of the Danes , Beowulf leads a troop of warriors across the sea to rid a village of the marauding monster. The monster, Grendel, is not a creature of mythic powers, but one of flesh and blood - immense flesh and raging blood, driven by a vengeance from being wronged, while Beowulf, a victorious soldier in his own right, has become increasingly troubled by the hero-myth rising up around his exploits carried out along with Hondscioh (Tony Curran) and his warriors . Beowulf's willingness to kill on behalf of Hrothgar wavers when it becomes clear that the King is more responsible for the troll's rampages than was first apparent. As a soldier, Beowulf is unaccustomed to hesitating. His relationship with the mesmerizing whore , Selma (Sarah Polley) who has fallen in love with him, and creates deeper confusion. Swinging his sword at a great, stinking beast is no longer such a simple act. The story is set in barbarous Northern Europe where the reign of the many-gods is giving way to one - the southern invader, Christ , here represented by a Catholic priest (Eddie Marsan) . Beowulf not only does battle with Grendel, he also fights Grendel's evil mother . Vengeance, loyalty and mercy powerfully entwine in this spectacular Norse adventure.

This European co-production begins with a real sense of wonder and surprise and develops with continuous struggles and winding up a fight against the giant Grendel. The picture packs great loads of action , wonderful cinematography , abundant stunts , breathtaking combats and a little bit of gore and blood . Stunning battles scenes illuminate the full-blown adventure with a plethora of engaging action set pieces on the combats in which the heads and limbs are slice off here and there and everywhere while other parts of body are slit open . Good performance from Gerard Butler as Beowulf , a man caught between sides in this great shift, his simple code transforming , falling apart before his eyes and the strange witch well played by Sarah Polley. Both of whom play a story of blood and beer and sweat, which strips away the mask of the hero-myth, leaving a raw and tangled tale .

Beowulf was a poem written in England, but is set in Scandinavia , commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature .Beowulf is considered an epic poem in that the main character is a hero who travels great distances to prove his strength at impossible odds against supernatural demons and beasts. It has variously been dated to between the 8th and the early 11th centuries. It is an epic poem told in historical perspective; a story of epic events and of great people of a heroic past. Although its author is unknown, its themes and subject matter are rooted in Germanic heroic poetry, in Anglo-Saxon tradition recited and cultivated by Old English poets . The poem is divided between Beowulf's battles with Grendel and with a dragon . The main protagonist, Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, comes to the aid of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, whose great hall, Heorot, is plagued by the monster Grendel. Beowulf kills Grendel with his bare hands and Grendel's mother with a sword, which giants once used, that Beowulf found in Grendel's mother's lair .

Other films based on this epic poem are the following : ¨Beowulf¨(1999) by Graham Baker with Christopher Lambert and Rhona Mitra , ¨The 13º warrior¨ by John McTiernan with Antonio Banderas , Diane Venora , and ¨Beowulf¨ by Robert Zemeckis with Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins .
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A Must See Film!!!!
conrad_wells26 September 2005
This has to be on everyone's must see movie list !! It has everything a movie goer could want action, thrills and adventure. The cast, costumes, scenic beauty and the music are just absolutely fabulous.There was so much to see that once was not enough. A star studded cast including the very handsome Gerry Butler( The Phantom Of The Opera), the sweet Sarah Polley( Road to Avonlea hit television series), another Scottish hunk Tony Curran(Flight Of The Phoenix) and Martin Delaney.

I have been anticipating this movie for over a year and was not disappointed. The genius of screenwriter Andrew Berzins flows across the screen and draws you into the epic right from the very beginning. Sturla's talent also evident in its creation. The film will be added to my personal movie collection to be enjoyed for years to come. I thought it was beautifully written , portrayed and produced.

I have seen this film now four times and it is still not enough. I really enjoyed it and cannot wait for the DVD release soon!!!BRAVO ANDREW AND STURLA!!!!!

Please see this film and see for yourself!!!
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Beowulf & Grendel was a stunning epic film.
connerlibby1 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film at its world premiere in Toronto, and was so moved by it, I had to see it a second time on Friday before I went home. It is visually stunning, beautifully written, and the performances by the wonderful cast were extraordinary. Gerry Butler is so masterful at allowing the viewer to read what is in his heart and soul in his eyes and face. I was in tears watching his final tribute to Grendel, as he buried him in the black sand. His transformation and understanding as the film went on was breathtaking. Grendel was performed so perfectly that even without dialogue, his vengeance and pain was heartbreaking and powerful. I was not as impressed by Sarah Polley as others might have been, but the Geats were great and seemed to be a tight knit group surrounding their hero. Beowulf. I cannot wait to share this film with friends here in the US, when it is finally released and will definitely add it to my personal collection. This is a beautiful film you will not forget.
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