Hwæt! Þe celebrated saga in Anglo-Saxon
Hollywood has adapted anew.
Hear then of how brave Beowulf
Confronted the creature Grendel and his kin
In Þis time-honored tale retold with techno-wizardry.

Cast and Crew

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writers: Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary
Adapted from the epic poem.

Cast
Ray Winstone as Beowulf
Robin Wright Penn as Wealthow
Anthony Hopkins as Hrothgar
Crispin Glover as Grendel
Charlotte Salt as Estrith
Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s Mother
Brendan Gleeson as Wigluf
Sebastian Roché as Wulfgar
John Malcovich as Unferth

Premise

A monster bedevils the hall of King Hrothgar. Brave-hearted Beowulf and his Geats agree to rid the realm of gargantuan Grendel, but learns that greater danger awaits.

High Points

1. An epic intended to be recited orally has its own set of conventions and these do not necessary suit cinema. Purists may protest some significant changes made by Gaiman and Avary, but they tie together several elements of the tale and address some lingering questions about Beowulf’s exploits. I don’t mean that this is better than the original, but the changed story fits the medium of film and its audience. The script also addresses these changes as differences between the tale sung by bards and the reality experienced by the characters.

2. The film boasts many scenes of brawl and battle.

Low Points

1. The director decided to have Beowulf disrobe before he meets Grendel in battle. Zemeckis then takes the Austin Powers route of placing foreground objects between our perspective and Beowulf’s private parts. The results are comical in ways that do not suit the tone of this film.

2. Sandal-epics tend toward kitsch, and Grendel’s mother pushes Beowulf into this territory. Blame both Jolie’s bizarre accent and also the design for the monster-mother which makes it appears as though she wears stiletto heels.

3. If you’re going to make a movie this breath-taking in 3-D, have more theaters show it in 3-D.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/5 Though an adaptation, it wins points for taking an original approach and the use to which it puts new technology.

Story. 5/6.

Effects: 6/6 Some people have complained that the characters look slightly zombie-like; others feel it should have been stylized further. You can debate the results, but the effects are, without question, fantastic.

Acting/Voice acting: 4/6 Most of the actors do a good job, though of course we have the usual epic shouting. Still, Beowulf has presented the story with some nuance and humor.

Production: 6/6

Emotional: 4/6 Though a more human story than 300, it still left me somewhat cold. I also doubt it will draw the fanatical audience that 300 did, though I consider it in many respects a better film.

Overall: 5/6 The methods by which they tell the tale will receive varying responses. I felt the CGI/motion capture created a stylized world suited to the old epic. Many others found it distancing, and far inferior to the effect that might be had by simply using actors and conventional film techniques.

Beowulf receives a score of 33/42