Yeah, Stellan Skarsgard running around on a rock as Hrothgar trying to lure out Grendel. Pretty awful.
Beowulf has become a Glaswegian.
Oh, dear – now there’s an Irish priest, Father Brendan.
And a witch (really?) who both looks and sounds out of place (Sarah Polley).
Welcome to Beowulf and Grendel, circa 2005. It’s pretty bad and I’m totally going to throw some SPOILERS in this review…so consider yourself warned if you’d really, really like to watch this movie regardless of what I have to say.
You know, the most atrocious thing about this movie is the use of accents. Skarsgard is Swedish and many of the second cast are of Norse extraction and they sound more like what you would expect to hear from a pack of Danes around 525AD. Eddie Marsan, who has a London accent normally, does a very convincing Irish accent as Father Brendan. However, Sarah Polley brings an American/Canadian accent, Tony Curran and Gerard Butler are heavy on the Scots, and Ronan Vibert is Welsh. So it sounds more like the Angles and the Saxons have come to purge Hrothgar’s kingdom of Grendel (who’s wearing a really terrible hairy suit that looks like rubber with fuzz on) instead of the Geats or any other Norse tribe. The major actors in this film are all talented so the producers and director should have spent more money on the dialect coaching. Or hired someone since it sounds like they spent no money at all.
The scenery of this movie is beautiful (Iceland subs in for pre-Christian Denmark) and is really the only redeeming thing. The adaptation of the Beowulf poem is terrible. It’s like the screenwriter tried to hew to the Beowulf storyline, but add some modern ethics for modern audiences, too (because heaven forbid an epic warrior be just that – a warrior), and Grendel’s sea hag-mom popped out of the sea and got him/her so the point of the movie remains unresolved. The story really doesn’t move forward well and we’re stuck watching an increasingly intoxicated Hrothgar wax philosophical over the curse of Grendel (aka Troll, because that’s what they call him) that has befallen his kingdom…and then Hrothgar converts to Christianity. Oh, and Grendel fathered a son because he knocked up Sarah Polley’s witch…is there supposed to be a Grendel II or did Beowulf’s funeral stele appease Grendel’s mini-me and avert all the bloodshed?
This movie could have been a whole lot better in many ways so if you want a good story read Beowulf in the Heaney translation or listen to an Anglo-Saxon language recording; if you want to watch a more entertaining movie watch The 13th Warrior (itself a terrible example of cinema but I find it entertaining).