Beowulf & Grendel
Actors: Gerard Butler, Ingvar Eggert Sigurson, Stellan Skarsgard,
Sarah Polley, Eddie Marsan
Director: Sturla Gunnarsson
Number of discs: 1
Run Time: 90 minutes
Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Audio commentary by director Sturla Gunnarsson,
screenwriter Andrew Rai Berzins
Featurette: "Wrath of Gods"
The title may sound like a love story, but it is actually a hate story.
Beowulf is the "hero" who hunts down and kills Grendel, a vicious troll
terrorizing a small Danish community in the year 500 A.D.
If you'd paid attention in your English Lit class then you would know that
Beowulf is of course an anonymous Old English epic poem believed to
have been composed in the early eighth century.
If you were thinking on
cheating on your English exams by renting the movie instead of reading the
work itself, then you're out of luck: while the movie is much more true to
the source material than the late 1990s Beowulf
flick by the director of Mortal Kombat starring Christopher Lambert,
it leaves out huge chunks of narrative such as Beowulf becoming king of the
Geats and dying fighting a dragon.
No dragons here, nor any special effects which is a pity to be honest. The
character of Grendel could have done with being a mean-looking CGI creation
or something for instance. Here he is just a big bearded guy (there is a lot
- and I
mean a lot!
- of facial
hair in this movie) and hardly threatening at all. By the way, this movie
gives Grendel a reason for his killing spree: he is avenging his father who
was killed by Danes when he was a small boy. In the original Grendel was
merely irked by the Danes' drunken singing!
The film is slow to get
started, but improves later on. It is however hampered by a mishmash of
European, English and Canadian accents making huge chunks of the film's
dialogue unintelligible. Also, the director makes some weird narrative
choices and the movie lacks any real momentum until its last fifteen or
twenty minutes when Grendel's mummy comes looking for revenge. The scenery
though is fantastic and otherworldly (it was shot under extreme weather
conditions in Iceland) and is well-served by the film's widescreen
THE DISC: Not much
in the way of featurettes although the one supplied does give an idea of
what a grueling shoot it must have been because of the bad weather. The
audio commentary is also interesting for the same reason.
WORTH IT? If
Beowulf & Grendel sounds like your cup of mead and you're the patient
type then it isn't exactly a waste of time. There are some (intentionally)
funny moments and some of the acting isn't too bad. If all fails then you
can simply gawk at the beautiful and harsh Icelandic scenery and thank your
stars that you're not actually living there . . .
Beowulf & Grendel is one of several recent straight-to-DVD attempts to
cash in on the popularity of Lord of the Rings. While it is certainly one of
the better ones (then again its competition includes the likes of
Dark Kingdom and
Blood of Beasts), it is also a bit on
the dull side and will most likely appeal the most to Medieval history
students and die-hard Sword & Sorcery fetishists who get off on all that
chain-mail armor and profuse facial hair.