Saturday, September 22, 2007

Beowulf & Grendel (Movie Review)

What a disappointment.

I mean, sure, perhaps I was a little too excited to see that an 8th century Old English epic poem about 6th century Scandavia had been turned into a film — and perhaps that excitement foolishly elevated my expectations.

Whatever it was, I found this film at times laughable. Granted, when I think of pieces of classical literature that would be difficult to adapt for the big screen, Beowulf easily makes the top ten. But I never expected to want to laugh about it.

From the grunts and gestures of Grendel — the troll the brave warrior Beowulf seeks to destroy — to crude dialog clearly spoken in-between bits of sorta Old English I struggled to hear (between being sick, having a 20-year-old television, and this DVD not having subtitles, I probably actually only heard 1/2 of the dialog), I was definitely hoping for at least a little something more than this 2005 production was able to provide.

The film also takes some poetic liberties in regards to its portrayal of Grendel — in the film, he is no more a beast than are the men who hunt him. And while I suppose you could take that message from the original epic poem (and, honestly, given my cynicism towards my fellow man, it's a message I empathize with), the filmmakers make him one of the most sympathetic characters — an egregious breach from the original, if I remember correctly (please note, I haven't read Beowulf in years — fellow English majors, please let me know if I'm not remembering correctly).

So in this regard, I'm torn: I recall feeling sorry for Grendel before, but in this film he and Beowulf are co-protagonists with a clear respect for one another, rather than absolute foils. So do I appreciate this editorial "tweak" — since I think it says more about human nature — or condemn it for breaking so egregiously from the original?

I dunno. All I do know is, I hope the next film based on this poem (apparently, another one is due out later this year) is better than this.



ds said...

for further reading and insight (like anyone has time for either) into I think what you're getting at, I would suggest John Gardner's Grendel. I think it gets at what they're getting at. later.


Beth said...

Just seems ridiculous to take liberties with a character who has survived thousands of years.

Pamela said...

I had a book with Beowulf in it when I was a kid (actually it was in our mini library)
'and it scared me so bad..

I'm glad the movie was bad- so I don't have to consider watching it.
bad memories. ouch.

michele said...

I would second ds's recommendation of Gardner's _Grendel_ - interesting book.

I liked the visuals of _Beowulf and Grendel_ but did find the liberties taken by it a bit hard to swallow. Perhaps my memory is failing me as well, but the idea of Grendel being just one in a continuous line - father and son both make appearances in the film - struck me as contravening the nature of the original, where this is a new terror, that once vanquished, one could expect will never return. Instead we get some kind of vendetta or feud started that the viewer is left to suspect will continue in some form or another.

I'm looking forward to the new one since Gaiman wrote the screenplay and I've loved his novels and screenplays to date. Here's hoping.