BEOWULF AND GRENDEL
Disappointing Action-Adventure, 2005 - 2 stars
Dumbed Down Version of Epic Tale
Politically correct version of first English epic poem about Nordic warriors in the 12th century and their heroic leader Beowulf who try to help their Danish kinsmen rid themselves of a murderous troll named Grendel. Director Sturla Gunnarsson uses the story of Beowulf as an excuse to shoot a film in the strikingly beautiful but barren landscape of Iceland. There are so many problems with this production, it is hard to appreciate the few things that are good. Like the dialogue: a strange mixture of traditional English and current London slang. Or the accents: a cacophony of Scottish, British, cockney - you name it. Or the costumes: the warriors look like they picked theirs up at a London costume shop - they show no wear or use at all. And where did they get them? There are no blacksmiths, no tanners, no weavers, no workmen of any kind in the film. The only activity anyone seems to be engaged in is drinking beer. And who produces the beer? There are no brewers, no farmers, no farm animals, no farms. Only a beer hall.
Gerard Butler stars in this "epic" as Beowulf, and, in my opinion, it is the low point in his career - even worse than Timeline, if that is possible. To add insult to injury, in the extra features, he tries to talk intelligently about what the director was trying to achieve, and it truly is laughable. The only thing I can make out is that the director was trying to show that Beowulf the poem was a piece of literary trash. So, why make a film about it? He makes the Danes out to be one step above Neanderthals. Yet, in only one century, we will have the story of Hamlet in Denmark, who was a contemporary of William Wallace in Scotland. How did the Danes advance so far in only one century if they were so stupid in Beowulf's day? Obviously, Gunnarsson didn't think about that.
Everything has been dumbed down - for Gunnarsson's drinking buddies, I suppose. The humor is crude and would only seem funny if we were as drunk as the characters in the film. The warriors ride about on little horses, probably native to the region; but they make them look silly and ineffective. There is a sex scene between the troll Grendel (played by Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson) and the witch Selma (played by Sarah Polley). It truly is tasteless. After making the case for Grendel not being a monster but just a misunderstood human, the filmmakers throw in a sea hag, who is obviously not human and not misunderstood. So, what are we supposed to believe about her? The final insult to our intelligence is when Beowulf tells the troll's son that he should be proud of his father, and then builds a monument to him.
Whoever wrote Beowulf is probably spinning in his grave. This truly is one of the low points in the history of literature and film. Except for the gorgeous landscapes and interesting cinematography, there is very little to recommend this film. There could have been some decent performances, because there are some good actors, if only Andrew Rai Berzins, who wrote the screenplay, had given them something to work with. This may have been good enough for Gunnarsson and his drinking buddies to use as an excuse to take a paid vacation to Iceland; but it shouldn't have been good enough for Gerard Butler to waste his career on, and it certainly isn't good enough for the rest of us to waste our time watching.
Waitsel Smith, March 27, 2007
Text © 2007 Waitsel Smith. Images © 2005 Anchor Bay. All Rights Reserved.
|close window||make a comment|