Beowulf

Ray Winstone as Beowulf
Anthony Hopkins as King Hrothgar
Robin Wright as Queen Wealthow
Brendan Gleeson as Wiglaf
Angelina Jolee as Grendel’s mother*
Crispin Glover as Grendel
Ray Winstone (again) as the Golden Man/Dragon

*I’m not just being ignorant. The character is apparently called that in the myth. Weird.

There are times when a movie serves as little more than a glorified test for new technology.
Beowulf is one of those movies. 3D cinema was a 1980s concept that, like many tech-fads, turned out to be all talk. But science marches on, so it came time for another try. But while I’ll admit that this movie is flashy, there’s not really that much meat on the plate.

Our story is a basic fantasy tale. Based on the ancient Anglo-Saxon English story, it tells of a monster, Grendel by name, who is terrorizing a town. Fortunately, a hero is on his way.

Does that really surprise you anymore?

His name is Beowulf and he vows to defeat Grendel and proves true to his word. Grendel literally runs home to mama and dies in her arms. Because Grendel’s mother will want revenge, Beowulf is given a sword and magic horn that lights his path in dark places. In the end, Grendel’s mother offers him a make-me-another-child-and-leave-the-horn-and-I’ll-stay-away deal. Predictably enough, Beowulf’s dick is bigger than his brain. Even more predictably, this arrangement doesn’t last forever.

My first quibble is with the acting. Everybody is so melodramatic. Some argue that this was to convey a sense of epicness. But other movies based on myths, like, say, Troy, didn’t have their characters behaving like they were on super-crack. I’m sorry, it just didn’t work for me. Couldn’t get over it.

The blatant overacting is really symbolic of the main problem: style over substance. While this movie looks great and undoubtedly looks even better in 3D, there’s nothing substantive plot-wise.Maybe the fact that story is so old has something to do with this, but still, it’s mainly the big CGI action scenes that drive the picture.

A little weirdness is that Ray Winstone (Beowulf) is nude except for a towel over his groin for much of this movie. He even strips butt-naked in front of a woman at one point. I’m guessing this is because women are much more interested in fantasy than most other action-packed genres. We’ve seen TV shows like Smallville and various romantic movies over the last decade succeed with this kind of strategy, so it’s not that surprising. The rather cynical logic here is that the more a lean man-package is shown, the more female viewers will tune in. I’m not judging. Believe me, I know how much “fan service” us guys get from Hollywood. Still, it doesn’t make for good storytelling.

What’s the point of this scene? What do you think?

There is a tremendous action scene in the end, where Beowulf and his bastard son fight. It’s a tremendous spectacle that invites you to forget how bad this movie has been up till then.

But no… while literally hundreds of fantasy movies have been worse, that only underscores how badly Hollywood abuses this genre, long after the Lord of the Rings movies set the bar so much higher. Beowulf? Its acting is lousy, its plot predictable, and its gimmicks both dumb and thrived on. This isn’t a good movie. It’s not even mediocre. It sucks.

 Overall: 3 out of 10

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18 thoughts on “Beowulf

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