Nov 18, 2007

[Movies] Beowulf

BeowulfNorse mythology and folklore is known for its ferocity, in many cases. Come one - here's a pantheon that devotes itself to battle and has only the end of all creation to look forward to in one great final battle where they are fated to lose, in most cases.

So when one of the greatest classics of English literature, ironically depicting warriors ands and heroes from a more Norse setting, Beowulf got turned into a movie, then of course I was all over it. It helps that Neil Gaiman was involved in the project as well. My thanks to the office for sponsoring several shows as part of our recruitment efforts.

Overall it's an interesting interpretation of the original epic, although with some Hollywood-ish adjustments. Yes, it's a CGI movie, and that sort of has a different effect on people, depending on their tastes. But come on, it really is a good movie!

The movie, for the most part, does an amazing job of capturing the core elements of the original Beowulf story - the strength and bravery of Beowulf, the grotesqueness of Grendel, the loyalty of Beowulf's men and the of course the awesome power of the dragon. The movie does follow along by depicting the three major battles of the original - the fight with Grendel, the battle with Grendel's mother and the last great struggle with the Dragon.

Of course the makers took some liberties with the story and made it more interesting in the long run like giving Grendel's mother (as voiced by Angelina Jolie) a lot more depth and ability along with giving the Dragon more of a story. Some might like the angle and some won't, I'm sure. However I'll go back to my usual track when it comes to adaptations - try to measure them on their own and not against their originals. They'll always be different, independent works in the end.

For a CGI film, it all looked amazing. This is not the kind of hokey animation used to bring the Scorpion King to life in The Mummy Returns (Widescreen Collector's Edition). It's pretty top-notch stuff that competes with the kind of quality we've seen from the Final Fantasy movies, which of course has everyone getting surprised when they do realize it is not a live-action movie. On the one hand, it could be said that there's an implied message here in terms of trying to take the story for what it is - a story, and not some real-life depiction of fantastical events. Then again, it is a guaranteed way to pull off all the stunts and special effects that real life actors wouldn't be able to do without significant production hours.

One thing that I'll never get over is the subtle humor in the movie. Sure, it's a dark and violent story to begin with and we have no lack of blood and gore. However the creators made sure to keep their sense of humor intact all throughout.

My favorite aspect is how Beowulf has become quite the exhibitionist which would give any professional wrestler or gay porn star a run for their money. It doesn't really explain why he keeps taking his clothes off, fighting naked, swimming in his skivvies or just ripping his shirt off for no apparent reason. Perhaps he wanted to be in 300 but didn't get the part and now finds the concept of clothes itchy. Of course given his various states of undress, he has been gifted with the magical ability of coincidentally convenient obstruction of his, um , ancestral weapon. It's even better than the sight gags played in the Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery/The Spy Who Shagged Me/Goldmember movies!

Oh, and don't get me started on Grendel's Mother, whose proportions make you forget to study the fine rendering of Angelina Jolie's facial features and the fact that she's the only barefoot monster I've ever seen to be constantly in heels.

This is a great, enjoyable movie if you're into animated violence or just a literature geek who wants to see what they've done with the story. I don't think it got overly mangled - it came out to be a pretty tight plot in the end.


  1. Hey, Rocky! I run a Neil Gaiman fansite here:
    Can I post your review? :D

  2. Meann,

    No problem about the cross post! Just be sure to link back to the original article =D


    Thanks, Rocky! And while we're at it, can I post your Stardust review too? Heheheheh.

  4. Hey Meann,

    Feel free to cross-post away! My thanks for the link as well.