Beowulf & Grendel is based on the epic poem of Beowulf, but its not intended
to be an accurate retelling of the tale. Calling it a movie inspired by the epic
would probably be more appropriate or as Hollywood likes to put it, a
re-imagining of the original story. For the most part re-imagined films seem
to have a particular talent for taking a classic and beloved story and turning
it into a hopeless and forgettable mess, but in this case the result is
interesting and worth watching.
The basic plot of Beowulfs encounter with the troll Grendel and Grendels
mother is depicted in Beowulf & Grendel, but scholars of the epic will not
recognize most of the story. Some of the major events are depicted, but even
these have been changed to fit the movies vision of the story. For example,
Grendel still loses his arm, but not in the same way as in the epic. However,
the changes are not chosen at random just for the sake of change or novelty.
They have all been made in an attempt to make Beowulf and his men appear more
human and realistic than larger-than-life epic heroes. The characters curse,
joke, and tease each other in much the same way that youd expect a group of
soldiers to act today. But the movie does more than make the characters more
familiar and accessible; it explores some of the more complex themes woven into
the classic epic. The concepts of loyalty, honor, and revenge are shown to
coexist in many shades of grey so that the events in the story are more a tragic
set of circumstances that have pitted Beowulf and Grendel against each other as
reluctant foes than a good versus evil confrontation. Im sure that this will
disappoint many action fans, especially since there is not that much actual
fighting in the film. However, I found this to make the movie far more engaging
and thought-provoking than your typical action film, and something that will
bring me back to it time and again.
If you are looking for a Lord of the Rings type of treatment of Beowulf, then
youre sure to be disappointed. However the movie is quite well-produced in
spite of its smaller scale. The movie is well-acted, with Gerard Butler doing an
excellent job of bringing the morally-conflicted yet honor-bound Beowulf to
life. The story is set in Denmark, but the movie was filmed in Iceland which
provides some spectacular scenery that matches the movies mood perfectly.
A fascinating retelling of a timeless classic.