Beowulf & Grendel


Action / Adventure / Drama / Fantasy / History

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Rotten 48%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 40%
IMDb Rating 5.9 10 16429


Uploaded By: OTTO
Downloaded 84,135 times
February 11, 2015 at 09:40 PM


Gerard Butler as Beowulf
Stellan Skarsgård as Hrothgar
Eddie Marsan as Father Brendan
Rory McCann as Breca
806.87 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 43 min
P/S 7 / 21

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by YuunofYork 7 / 10

Worthwhile historical film with postmodern idiosyncracies

Since John Gardner's book Grendel fifty years ago, retellings of the story of Beowulf have enjoyed a certain postmodern freedom from the rigidity of the original Anglo-Saxon verse. If Grendel be more man than monster, can the burly hero still boast about his destruction? Would he still want to? Removing the mystique from Grendel (and his people) calls into question the monster's motives, desires, and even rights. If you guard your fairy tales with religious zeal, if you prefer your monsters black-hearted, your heroes righteous as the dawn, then by gods skip Sturla Gunnarsson's recent entry into this dialogue. If you are instead a student of realism, and the possibility of all actions being unjustifiable, of all decisions being the wrong decision, tickles your inner materialist, then you are sure to be rewarded.

There is so much talk of Beowulf & Grendel's realistic properties, that one aspect must first be overcome. There is no point where this universe of Danes, Geats, and monsters is intended to be our own. Grendel's people, whose depiction in the film belies the creators' mid-production waffling between a race of yeti or relict Neanderthal, are not human, but humanoid. That is all that it is necessary that they be. Likewise the Danes call them trolls, but there is no intention to conjure up images from Asbjørnsen and Moe. It appears they settled on a strange dimorphism, where the females of the tribe are trunk-legged water-dwellers, and the men three meter-tall land ramblers. This is all, as they say, academic; however, I wonder whether it, along with bizarre calligraphic chapter cards at uneven internals, is evidence of an attempt to shoehorn fairy tale properties for a wider audience.

What is realistic is instead the writing, and the limitations and expectations of these brutal, Dark Age characters. These people are frank, superstitious, crude, and violent, but the main achievement is in making them also uncaricatured. They are intelligent but not wise, brave, but not invulnerable. "I p--s the stuff, you know" says Hrothgar (Skarsgård) under-voice to Beowulf (Butler) as the two comment on an increasingly atypical blood-free morning. I'm especially fond of an early scene where Beowulf washes up ashore in Geatland and casually brushes off the minor adventure to a peasant fisherman. "Oh, a hero! Well, don't my s--t stink!" says the peasant. It typifies the period so perfectly - this is 500 CE, long before castles, courts, and chivalry, before class or nationalism. Survival was all, in harsh lands where kings commanded fewer men than a high school basketball coach. For these tribesmen the gods couldn't do what kinship sometimes could, and they would kill what they didn't understand.

And this is what prompts our story. Hrothgar killed a troll, for all intents and purposes, and it's child, Grendel, on reaching adulthood sets upon the Danes so thoroughly, the hero sails from Geatland to fulfill a blood oath after hearing the gruesome tale. Soon he begins to suspect he has become involved not in a war over territory or food, but a personal grudge against just one man who is prepared to let his people suffer for his mistakes. "What is a troll?" he asks a tight-lipped Hrothgar.

This is not to suggest Beowulf is a modern man. He is open-minded, intelligent, brave, and a natural leader, but there are things hidden even from him. The outcast witch, Selma (Polley) has that honor. A postmodern woman who has learned a few tricks to ensure Hrothgar's men leave her - mostly - alone, she has earned a reputation as a mystic who can foretell the deaths of others. Her victimization has given her the only real wisdom in the film, that there is an honor to Grendel worth more than blood oaths, that binds him to Hrothgar through vengeance and to her out of shame. Beowulf, like Grendel, has to first wrong Selma to gain this understanding. 'What is a troll?' One could well ask, 'what is a hero?' The competing elements of the old gods and Christianity are treated in the film comically, in the form of two priests, one of Odin who is a servant of the king, and one of Christ, whose presence is tolerated because of the Grendel crisis. When Grendel's mother comes seeking vengeance, both are washed away with the rest of hope.

The locations are inspired. Filmed in his native Iceland, Gunnarsson marches his cast over shoals and cliffs, places not exactly up to code. I doubt there was any coconut water on set. The wide shots of the landscape are much more than background here, every bit as rugged as when it was first colonized hundreds of years after the Beowulf legend came to be. The horses and much of the cast are Icelandic, which works just fine for dark-age Daneland. The accents, however, are overall confusing. Most of the Geats use a Scottich brogue, while Selma, the outsider, speaks fluent Canadian. Geats and Danes had a common language, making any differentiation artifactual, and, I think, unwelcome. In the acting department there are no miscasts. It is actually a little refreshing how great everyone is (accents aside). For all that, the film has a cheap sort of look, especially in costume and set design. Heorot would probably fall down if anyone shut the door too hard.

Beowulf & Grendel is a quirky, unfaithful historical drama. There is no attempt to include a dragon in the third act, thank gods. Of all the ways this story has been regurgitated, this is perhaps the most experimental, in a way even more distant a retelling than The 13th Warrior (1999), which also replaced myth with men, but without humanizing them. In that film, heroes and villains are still archetypal, whereas in Gunnarsson's, Beowulf struggles with the fact he and Grendel actually have very little to fight about. Arguably, even in the final shots the man just doesn't get it. Neither, it seems, did audiences. 7.5 / 10

Reviewed by Jon Plowman 5 / 10

Ho hum.

I had no high expectations (my crap detector predicting a "meh" out of 10) but was still disappointed. Don't get me wrong: I like Gerald Butler, for reasons which escape me, but hey, if you can stomach King Leonidas sporting a red Speedo and a Scots accent, you can handle Beowulf. Amiright? No fan of 300, I was pleasantly surprised to see Gerry manage an entire hack-and-slash movie role without displaying a six pack or a male nipple. I wasn't surprised that he didn't manage a single syllable of dialogue without the Scots brogue. His portrayal of Beowulf could charitably be called "competent"; he didn't fudge his lines and he didn't drop his sword, but he could have been replaced by any of a hundred other actors. Oh yeah, he ran up the hills fairly well. Not that it counts. Zero points.

I was very pleasantly surprised at possibly the best performance I've ever seen from Stellan Skarsgard. The man's an extremely accomplished actor, but watching him bring the conflicted, haunted, guilt-ridden, drunken sot King Hrothgar to life was a revelation. His was without doubt the best performance in the entire film, with one possible exception, of which more in a moment. Worth a solid two points alone.

The only real competitor for best performance was from Eddie Marsdan. Eddie's one of those character actors, someone who will likely never hold a leading role in any movie you'll ever see, but whose character portrayals provide a great foil to the leading actor's performance. His lunatic Brother Brendan was highly amusing, at times inspired, and only betrayed by poor direction and cinematography. They should have used him more intelligently. One point there.

Interesting to see Rory McCann in a role other than that of the Hound from Game of Thrones, but seeing him without GoT armour and prosthetics was the only interesting thing about his involvement in Beowulf & Grendel. His performance was flat, uninspired, completely forgettable. Zero points.

The rest of the cast can be lumped together, except for a shout out to the actor whose spastic village idiot reveals the location of Grendel's cave. One of the better mentally handicapped performances I've seen recently. One point.

The direction was lacklustre and dull, sometimes even tiresome. In some scenes it seemed like the actors had run out of things to do and were waiting for the director to remember to shout "Cut!" Many of the best moments - Grendel's first attack on the Danes for instance - were completely ballsed-up by bad direction, mediocre choreography and poor planning of shots, and then compounded by indifferent to awful cinematography. Those two elements together reduced potentially a great retelling of the epic story to the level of a low-budget TV movie made by the film industry rank-and-file. I'm tempted to deduct a point here, but let's face it, this film hasn't scored many yet, so I'll be nice and let them get away with an undeserved zero points.

The soundtrack was nothing but dull orchestral elevator music. In many scenes there was no music at all to help us feel the emotional tone. At others times it was intrusive, and it was almost always completely inappropriate. This is inexcusable. There are extremely talented film composers working in Iceland today - Atli Örvarsson's soundtrack for The Eagle is a fantastic example of the work coming out of there. The Norwegian band Wardruna contributed a great deal of absolutely superb music to the Vikings TV series. They use authentic instruments and Nordic singing, and their albums are nothing less than haunting. It's a crying shame that we had to sit through the audio drivel we were served up in this case. Minus one point.

The script was generally good and even at times very good, but it was badly compromised by modern syntax and grammar, modern colloquialisms and worst of all, modern Anglo-Saxon swearwords. The plot was decent enough in that it's fairly close to the original epic poem, but that wasn't so much a function of good scriptwriting as it was of good source material. One point for a nice effort.

The props, sets and costumes were generally good, especially the weapons and helmets. The modern, shiny-finish leather used in some of the armour was a serious mistake, as was the use of some modern textiles. And the hairy muscle suits worn by the trolls looked ridiculous in every well-lit shot. Someone should have noticed that during production and tried to fix it. One point there, but only because I can't give half points on IMDb.

One ludicrous moment was early in the film when Beowulf was introduced to us by swimming ashore in full armour, minus helmet, and wearing a sword in a sheath. The fact is that authentic Viking chainmail hauberks weighed something in the order of 10 or 15 kg - call it 25 to 30 lb if you think Imperial. Add another 3 kg - say 8 lb - for a medium sword, plus a few kilograms of assorted leather, and you're looking at probably 20 kg (50 lb) of weight he'd have to be carrying, not including shoes and other clothing. It doesn't matter how strong a swimmer he is, he'd just sink like a stone. The fact that the film industry uses aluminium and rubber in place of metal and leather armour specifically in order to reduce the weight worn by the actors is no excuse. None at all.

So the grand total is a whopping five points, which I think is probably far too generous. To sum up, if you decide to watch Beowulf & Grendel, don't expect much and you're unlikely to be disappointed. If you want to see something special then don't bother wasting your money unless you're a fan of Stellan Skarsgard. Or you have a crush on Gerry that doesn't depend on well-chiselled abs and the briefest of red briefs.

Reviewed by Leofwine_draca 7 / 10

An effective Anglo-Saxon adventure

BEOWULF is one of my favourite works of epic poetry, but the subject matter, which jumps all over the place and back and forth through time, is fairly unworkable on film. I was interested to see what the makers of this fairly low budget epic would do with the material, and in the end I was more than satisfied. As the title indicates, BEOWULF & GRENDEL focuses on the central thrust of the story, ignoring side-stories and the later Beowulf vs. dragon showdown to deliver a simple retelling of the main part of the age-old legend.

The story is largely expanded from the original, with many peripheral characters added and extra scenes. Some of these work (Eddie Marsan's psychotic Christian missionary helps to set the film in its time rather well) but others I could have done without, such as Sarah Polley's witch. Still, for the most part, the story is well achieved, with plenty of atmosphere and a real sense of place. Somebody had the brilliant idea of filming in the bleak Icelandic countryside, full of mountains and rocks and waterfalls with nary a blade of grass in sight; the decision paid off (despite problems with the weather during the shoot) and you can really believe the action is taking place over a thousand years ago.

Gerard Butler does well as the hero, his Beowulf equally as rugged as the isolated scenery. His role feels like a dry-run for 300's King Leonidas. Most of the supporting cast are interchangeable, but Stellan Starsgard is fine as the complex, tormented Hrothgar. Grendel is a more sympathetic creation here than in the poem; he's given his own back story, which I didn't mind, and he looks like a caveman rather than a hideous monster. Some of the incident in the eventual showdown between man and monster is changed and the later sub-plot involving Grendel's mother feels rushed, but I felt these problems were insignificant. For the most part, BEOWULF & GRENDEL ably brings to life the heroism and terror of the Anglo-Saxon age.

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