While some commentators have described this adaptation as a naturalistic interpretation of the Poem, I disagree. The film is a more naturalized version of the legend, but it doesn’t demythologize the story entirely. Grendel looks much more human, but he is still monstrous. His mother is even more monstrous. A witch possesses divination ability (with somewhat legitimate results). And a brief vision forebodes the death of one of our characters.
Take a peak at the trailer.
- There is a pervasive anti-Christian theme running through the film. Christians are liars, exaggerators, and impotent. Brennan, a missionary, is portrayed as absolutely insane, weak, profane, petty and vindictive.
- With such a negative view of Christianity, it makes no sense that Brennan is able to baptize a number of people.
- The script does not understand the gospel, nor how it would have historically been presented. The gospel in the film is a modern mischaracterization, translated into the past.
- Hrothgar is, once again, portrayed as a powerless and incompetent king.
- They call mead “beer” throughout the film. Mead is made from honey. Beer is made from grain.
- The constant profanity and vulgarity in the film. It didn’t offend me, but it just didn’t fit.
- Clunky and inconsistent dialogue. The film went from poetic and archaic language, to modern idioms constantly.
- Gross sexual dialogue in two instances and one scene (divided in two) of a particularly disturbing sexual encounter. What’s further disturbing is that this scene is interpreted as rape by most viewers, but some of the filmmakers don’t see it that way.
- The film fails to distinguish the difference between murder and killing. There is a moral difference between killing a person in cold blood, killing someone out of vengeance and killing in the midst of warfare to protect oneself and one’s home.
- The story departs from and openly mocks the Poem.
- The story structure does not work.
What I Liked
- The cinematography is beautiful. Both the locations and the way they were filmed are breath-taking.
- I like how they portray Grendel in the film visually (calling him a “troll”).
- There is an anti-vengeance theme in the film and they correctly portray the vicious cycle of vengeance.
- Tony Curran, one of the thanes in 13th Warrior was also a thane in this film.
- The acting is really good.
- Gerard Butler’s presence is great.
Beowulf and Grendel is a film I desperately want to like. The cinematography is unbelievable. The film was shot entirely using natural effects. There’s no computer graphics to be found here.
Beyond the grotesque moments of the film and the clunky dialogue, what I think really injures the movie is the filmmaker’s obsession with mocking Christianity. It hurts the story and actually makes no sense. They acknowledge that Christianity eventually takes hold of the pagan world, but they give us no reason to believe that it would. Not for one second. The Christian religion is portrayed as a weak, vindictive, incoherent faith presented by a man who is mentally insane. Why would it triumph over paganism?
Furthermore, the anti-vengeance theme of the story comes from an outcast, pagan witch, not the Christian characters. But, once again, history paints a different picture (especially in the Northlands). It was this message of love, forgiveness and not taking vengeance that the pagans found as weakness. And it is one of the reasons Christianity was initially resisted.
Even without this weirdness (fueled by anti-Christian sensibilities) the story still doesn’t quite add up.
There was so much potential in this film. Even with the divergence from the Poem, it could have been an amazing film. But misfire after misfire leaves this film only watchable for the cinematography.
Rating: 2/5 (I Didn’t Like It)
The cinematography can be found on Amazon.