By Joe Montgomery
“Beowulf” is a film based on the ninth century poem written by an unknown author in British literature. Of course, as Hollywood is notoriously known for doing, the film wanders from the original story. Literary pace and form is rarely compatible with film, and, in this instance, I can understand the changes made.
In the original story, Beowulf destroys Grendel and his mother, and the plot plays out as one battle after another. But in the film, Grendel’s mother lives throughout the entirety of the movie, causing Beowulf to succumb to her beauty and give her a child, who would later become the dragon. Grendel’s mother becomes a curse on all crowned kings of the nation, and, after Beowulf grows old and is crowned, the mother returns to haunt him and destroy his people.
The creators of the movie gave this ninth century story a 21st century look by creating it completely from computer-generated imagery (CGI). Although we live in an age of impressive computer animation, the design of Beowulf was hardly flawless.
I spotted several areas of the movie that showed laziness on the creator’s part. The secondary characters lacked a lot of detail, and Grendel’s mother looked like a cartoon Angelina Jolie, as did the other female characters. The horses ridden into battles often looked like stiff pieces of meat, and the ocean tide occasionally appeared cheap, especially when it splashed against the shore or onto the body of some dead warrior.
Personally, I would have been more impressed with the graphics if real-life actors were integrated with CGI monsters. There wasn’t such a large call for computer-animated creatures that it wasn’t possible to have real-life actors.
The result of real life would have taken viewer’s minds off the fact that the entire thing was basically a cartoon.
But if you don’t want to see it just for the technological aspect, at least see the movie for the wonderful blend of over-sized monsters, ugly Viking-like warriors and the epic battle sequences where Beowulf notoriously strips naked and kicks some rump.