“A warrior will sooner die than live a life of shame.” ~Beowulf, Lines 2890-2891
In honor of the new film version of Beowulf releasing today, I thought I would share a few words about how I feel regarding movie making and this amazing epic … three words to be exact: “LEAVE IT ALONE!” I know. I have yet to view the new film, so how can I be this judgmental? Experience. Hollywood has a long history of failed attempts to produce a version of Beowulf that would be to my standards. I happen to love the story of Beowulf. Yes, there is a copy on my bookshelf that is not included within an old school textbook. On top of that, I have seen a number of cinematic portrayals of the story and they suck. Every single one … sucks.
For those of you who may not know (and shame on you if you don’t), Beowulf is a seventh-century poem that follows a great warrior from youth to old man and recounts his heroics in facing the monsters Grendel, Grendel’s mother and the dragon. That, my friends, is the short and sweet version.
Come with me as I take you on a quick peak of some of the more recent film additions of this great poem. Remember – I said quick; I am not going to sit here and write a full page review of each film. If you want to know more about each one then go ask an English professor or Google them or put them on your Netflix queue. Whatever!
Animated Epics: Beowulf (1998) with Joseph Fiennes voicing Beowulf
You would think that an animated version might get it right, but with sketchy animation and a focus on the fight sequences the true “feel” of the poem is lost. The story is told too quickly and I honestly just didn’t like it.
Beowulf (1999) with Christopher Lambert as Beowulf
Oh please! Techno music … in an epic? What were you people thinking? This movie is just plain bad and there is nothing in the world that can save it. Enough said. Should you watch it? Maybe. If you have 2 robot friends and you are sitting in an empty theater giving it the good old MST3K treatment then feel free to watch away. It is just way too easy to mock.
Beowulf and Grendel (2005) with Gerard Butler (drool) as Beowulf
What do I say? This film is not bad, but it’s not good either. Gerard Butler is fantastic. I would not expect any less of him. The scenery and the soundtrack are fantastic as well, but overall a lot of liberties were taken with the story line and I just can not wrap my mind around it enough to really give it two thumbs up. I had high hopes that this would be the one that got it right. It did not. Sorry Gerard.
The 13th Warrior (1999) with Antonio Banderas
Is it possible that a movie based on a book (Eeaters of the Dead) which was based rather loosely off of the original script of Beowulf can be the best adaptation of said poem to date? Yes, yes it is. Don’t chastise me. I know it does not follow the story of Beowulf word for word, but it just makes for a better cinematic experience than the rest. Other Beowulf purists will probably disagree with me, but I don’t particularly care.
There you go. Will the movie version that is released today be able to stand on its own merit and become the most accurately accepted adaptation? Can Hollywood successfully portray a fallible hero? I fear that the splendid real life animation will overshadow the story, but hopefully it will not. There is also the question of 2-D or 3-D … which version will you choose to see? Me? I’m going with 2-D because I am less apt to be overly critical that way. We will see.
“Fate goes ever as fate must.” ~Beowulf, Line 455