on November 2, 2003
The epic poem that is Beowulf ranks as one of the greatest pieces of literature man has ever produced. When a reader ponders the ideas found within this wonderful work of art the mind simply boggles at the depth and richness running throughout the poem. Glimpses of the old Europe abound in this tale about Hrothgar, Beowulf, Grendel, and Grendel's mother, a Europe of drinking halls, campaigns of conquest, human destiny, and dark monsters creeping through the night. Simultaneously, a reader of Beowulf glimpses the stirrings of Christianity, which would soon overrun all of Europe and put an end to the old ways. Scholars of Beowulf never tire of writing articles and books about this piece of literature and new translations of the work continually appear. If you wish to read Beowulf, and I recommend you do so as quickly as possible, check out the spectacular Seamus Heaney translation. Do not, under any circumstances, watch this cinematic version of Beowulf in lieu of reading the poem. Not only does this movie not follow the epic in any significant way, the film also takes a decidedly B movie approach to the whole topic. "Beowulf" stars Z movie star Christopher Lambert as the enigmatic hero, another point you would do well to consider before popping this disc in your DVD player.
At some point in the future, in a time never elaborated upon by the filmmakers, a fortress stands watch on the borderland between good and evil. The soldiers in the fort, led by a king named Hrothgar and his right hand man Roland, fight endlessly with a mysterious creature who shambles out of the dark each night to claim a new victim. The garrison rapidly diminishes under the onslaught of this malevolent apparition until one day a man rides up to the fort claiming that his destiny involves fighting evil. This man is Beowulf, played with mind deadening woodenness by a bleach blonde Christopher Lambert. The men manning the fort are naturally suspicious of this new arrival, but after Beowulf fights the creature to a standstill the men are more accepting of his presence. In no time at all, Beowulf antagonizes Roland, wins the admiration of Hrothgar, and catches the eye of the king's busty daughter Kyra. The killings continue unabated until the big showdown between Beowulf and Grendel, the name of the being haunting the soldiers in the castle. A further surprise appears in scenes involving Hrothgar's dream encounters with a mysterious blonde apparition, a woman who has something to do with the death of the king's wife and who eventually plays a big role at the end of the film.
Initially, I warmed to "Beowulf." Despite Lambert in the lead role, most of the actors did a better than expected job in their roles. The gorgeous Rhona Mitra did an adequate turn playing Hrothgar's daughter. Charles Robinson, who played Mac on "Night Court," does as much as he can in the role of the fort's chief weapons master, and the actors playing Hrothgar and Roland did acceptable work as well. The set pieces looked better than average for a B movie, as did the armor and weapons used by the characters. The movie starts with a nice fight scene between Beowulf and a small army outside of the fort, and this too gave me hope that the movie would rise above my original expectations. As the movie wore on, I discovered my interest waned considerably. The CGI effects used for Grendel and his mother looked cheesy and uninteresting, and Lambert's portrayal of Beowulf tended to grate after the first thirty minutes. The soundtrack contributed greatly to my sense of irritation. The filmmakers saw fit to imbue this project with a booming techno beat, and used it every chance they got whether the scene called for it or not. Sometimes this music does work, but far too often it distracts and annoys. To keep boredom at bay, I began to count how many times Beowulf executed fancy back flips during the combat sequences. In fact, it seemed that the only thing Lambert's character did after awhile was jump around, strike poses, and mutter cryptic phrases about the evil in the fort. As the final credits rolled, I knew I had just finished watching a typical B movie stinker.
The "Beowulf" DVD is far from a bare bones sort of release. There is a trailer for the film, along with additional trailers for films like "Scream 3." A short behind the scenes featurette is also available. The movie itself looks good for a low budget bomb, and you should still have a good time watching the nice looking women in this movie even if you cannot stomach the lousy dialogue or abominable special effects. "Beowulf" is a must see for those who get a kick out of science fiction cheese films or fans of Christopher Lambert, but all others should stay away.
on January 8, 2003
If you are a literary nut looking for a sophisticated adaption ot the Beowulf epic you might be a little disappointed. However, if you are a little more open-minded or enjoy a good action flick this one is great. The fantasy like setting is extremely well done and somehow the use of modern technology doesn't seem out of place here. The storyline is changed slightly from the original work to make it more presentably to the big screen. Some of the things are a little weird but the gorgeous women more than make up for that.
Ah, Beowulf. The oldest piece of English literature. A vivid, compelling poem about the clash of man and monster, with subtext about the triumph of Christianity over the old pagan religions.
With that in mind... how about the story as a post-apocalyptic wangstfest with lots of female nudity?
Yes, some genius decided that the tale of a superhuman hero going up against a grotesque monstrosity to save a kingdom needed some Mad Max injected into it. And while the idea itself is not inherently bad, everything about the execution can be used in a "How Not To" guide -- it's a foul, muddy, overcomplicated mess that tries to dazzle us with rubber monsters, ridiculous weaponry, and a string of soap-opera subplots that don't really relate to anything in the main plot.
The mysterious warrior Beowulf (Christopher Lambert) rescues a young girl from a bunch of savages who want to sacrifice her, in order to exorcise the evil that is plaguing the cartoonish-looking castle of King Hrothgar (Oliver Cotton). But she runs back and gets killed, because she considers it a better fate than facing whatever horrors are waiting in the castle. Intrigued, Beowulf heads right to the castle to find out what is going on, and receives the best news possible: a monster named Grendel is coming to the castle every night, and killing people.
Hrothgar welcomes him warmly, since Beowulf is the only one who can kill Grendel. But others aren't so welcoming: his daughter Kyra (Rhona Mitra) believes Beowulf is representing her dead husband's family, and the powerful knight Roland (Götz Otto) thinks Beowulf is a rival for Kyra's affections. Yes, we have terrible soapy subplots in this story, and none of them add up to anything.
Of course, it takes Beowulf awhile to come up with a way of killing Grendel, since the demon-creature's power is enough to wound even him. And in the meantime, Hrothgar is having strange memory-dreams of a seductive seminude woman (who looks like a refugee from a 1980s softcore-porn music video) whose presence is tied to his wife's death many years ago. When Beowulf seemingly kills Grendel, that woman's dark power threatens everyone in the castle -- and the only one who can stop her is Beowulf.
A sci-fi version of "Beowulf" is not a bad idea -- just look at the movie "Outlander," which dabbled in just that idea. Neither are some of the other ideas, like a love interest for Beowulf or a post-apocalyptic setting. But this "Beowulf" is a complete disaster that squanders every possibility its setting and genre open up -- the setting could have made Grendel into a grotesque mutant abomination, or an alien creature feeding on human beings. Instead, they stick with safe territory: ancient demons that don't match the sci-fi setting,
The main additions to this story are the obnoxious soap-opera subplots -- Roland's rivalry with Beowulf, Kyra's murdered husband, and Grendel's parentage. None of these has any real relevance to the main story. And of course, they tried to throw in some sexy twists on the tale by depicting Grendel's mom as a succubus rather than a monster.
But even if the story weren't overloaded with miscellaneous subplots, the script is still a massive stinker, with long stretches of Beowulf just hanging around saying pretentiously emo stuff about how dark and tormented he is ("Only an idiot would want to come to this damn place." "Unless he was already damned"). The attempts to be gritty and dark merely make this setting grimy, dim and mucky, so that you don't much care if this bleak, miserable band of people end up surviving.
The costumes range from decent (Beowulf's worn leather getup) to the silly (horned helmets, see-through dresses, Hrothgar's eyeless mask), and the weapons are just hilariously bad. Hrothgar's sword is a giant saw blade with no point (much like the movie) and Beowulf dual-wields tiny crossbows and throwing axes, both of which are useless once he's used them a single time. And no matter how hard Lambert tries, tiny crossbows are never cool-looking.
And as a side note, the soundtrack is absolutely awful. Admittedly scoring it entirely with electronic and industrial music is a bold choice, but it's poorly chosen -- Grendel's killing spree and a funeral are scored with peppy, blippy electronica.
Lambert is absolutely lifeless as Beowulf, but admittedly he's playing a character with less dimension than a paper doll -- Beowulf spends all his time wangsting about how evil and dark and brooding he is. I'd say that it's in order to get into Kyra's pants, but Lambert and Mitra have the chemistry of a pair of coma patients. Otto mostly shows anger through making kissy-lips, but sadly his character is the most developed in the entire movie, despite being shelved as the "love rival." Cotton is the only actor who seems to be doing well as a grizzled, regretful king.
And a special mention must be given to Layla Roberts, a former Playmate who does little but lick Hrothgar's nose and writhe around wearing transparent netting. She is so mesmerizingly bad that she manages to make the laughable dialogue BORING ("Do your loins at this moment, at this moment of death, do they burn for me?").
If you need a sci-fi version of the Old English poem, try "Outlander." This post-apocalyptic "Beowulf" is a mess in every way that matters, except perhaps as fare for a riffing party. Even Lambert's coolness can't break through the murky, muddy funk.
on May 11, 2004
I watched a pretty terrible movie called Beowulf last night. It stars Christopher Lambert, which is a pretty good indication of the movie's level of badness. The movie is a futuristic retelling of the Beowulf story, and it does a half-decent job of it until the end, when it suddenly veers into an erotic horror tale. I really don't remember the Old English version having Grendel's mom as a hot blonde porn star. I also don't remember the epic being boring, filled with clichéed second-scare, bad cuts between scenes, or Beowulf being such a wooden character.
The movie had two good things going for it: a great industrial soundtrack (which nonetheless doesn't go with the movie at all), and the way it's made me want to reread Beowulf, if only to clear the bad taste of this movie out of my mental palate. I haven't read it for at least ten years, and it's definitely worth the reread. It also made me remember how I want to learn Old English. I'd love to be able to read the poem in its original language.
on December 9, 2002
Christopher Lambert's Beowulf brings enough heroic "gravitas"--in what easily could've played as HIGHLANDER prequel--to make this PM Sword and Sworcery smorgasbord enjoyable. Forget about allegiance to the classic Dark Ages quest. Director Graham has broad sword stiched and blood-n-gore glued 90 minutes of well-choreographed combat and mayhem. He delivers the goods with a ferocious incarnation of GRENDEL as virtual "Monster from the Id." Nightly, the Beast raids Hrothgar's Mead Hall/Castle to slaughter hapless warriors. The inner ambience of this abattoir (which looks like a goofy concatenation of stove pipes and trash cans outside), is genuinely menacing recalling Michael Mann's haunted KEEP. Layla Roberts essays Lilith role of Grendal's Mother. She plays archetypal She-Demon, a succubus, whose purpose is to breed and nurture Evil. However, this movie has few mythological or Jungian pretensions (I hope). Here BEOWULF is a Good, Bad and extremely Ugly "boat-parade" of Monster-osity with original "THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE" hero to save the day(you have to survive NIGHT by yourself)...
on December 3, 2002
Anyone coming for a faithful Beowulf adaptation, or in fact anything remotely like any reasonable Hollywood film one has ever seen, is in for a real surprise. I hope you like surprises, as I sometimes do, because after a third viewing I have to confess that _Beowulf_ is probably the best recent example I have seen of whatever passes for unintentional surrealism these days.
Plenty of people who like their genres served whole have complained that this movie looks cobbled togetther from dozens of different films, and that the parts don't sit right together. I am compelled to agree. Never before have I seen a medieval sci-fi horror western martial arts film with a couple of soft-core scenes thrown in for good measure. No other movie would dare to cut from a crowd of futuristically dressed soliders carrying swords, screaming "Kill the Beast!", straight to Christopher Lambert in a trenchcoat on a horse, accompanied the whistle from _The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly_ on the soundtrack. That's as cool as the unexpected intersection of a sewing machine and umbrella on some psycho future guillotine bed.
Depending on your point of view, everything is wrong or a whole lot works. Christopher Lambert is as convincing as he ever has managed to be (I'd pay just to hear him say, "I'm Beowulf" a few more times), the supporting acting is all slightly off, the lead women are gorgeous, and the soundtrack--
The soundtrack deserves its own paragraph. Ben Watkins of Juno Reactor, currently one of the best two techno outfits in the business, basically remixed a bunch of industrial and used a lot of his own stuff to create possibly the most overblown film soundtrack ever--as might be expected, given how much like a b-action film Juno Reactor's music already is. It's less a soundtrack than an entirely separate movie which doesn't sit well along with the all this stuff from _Beowulf_ it has to accompany. Watkins has killer techno going before the fight scenes can even really get underway, leading to the amusing audio-visual experience of hearing his music brought way down on the mix so we can hear the sounds of people walking around, looking out warily for the monster. Not content to use everyday horror shock cues, he seems to have substituted an electric guitar for the usual "woosh" noises, bringing the film into the fifth dimension, without space or time, where Bernard Hermann has no meaning.
So that's that. I don't know if you'd want to buy it. Try renting it first.
on February 21, 2002
Certainly a bold undertaking of adapting the ancient poem Beowulf to film.
Christopher Lambert does an outstanding job of portraying a tormented hero. Even better than he does in the Highlander movies. Brave, cocky and not sure of himself but sure of what he is doing. Spouting those sarcastic lines that make you laugh and the other characters step back. Set in a strange kind of future where you see modern tools like an infer red telescope along side ancient weapons (swords etc.) But not necessarily post - apocalypse. This really sets the tone for the movie. The viewer really has no time reference, making the movie that much more intriguing - mystical? I loved the way the characters are played off on each other, each revealing secrets and fears. There is much more to this movie that blood and guts, but make no mistake, violence there is plenty. I enjoyed this film as fantasy / horror. No weak performances or bad dialog. If you can set aside superficial judgments like "why are there modern tools and old tools being used together". And actually watch the movie I think you will enjoy it thoroughly.
on February 11, 2002
I think this might be the worst treatment of this classic poem I could have ever imagined.
I rented this movie with the hope that the filmmakers tried to adhere to the original story from the poem. Instead, they have attempted an update that completely falls short. The original plot of the story is far and away the best storyline, with a larger-than-life hero with "the grip of thirty fighting men in his hand", fight scenes against bizarre lake creatures and a battle to the death in an underground lair with Grendal's mother. In an attempt to "modernize" it, however, they have thrown out almost every good story element and ruined any chance of creating an engaging and exciting film, one that faithfully portrays the original story. I would challenge anyone to find any translation of the poem and read it...you will understand my complete dismay once you have. By the way, why do writers and directors (not all of them, mind you) think that for a film to work, a sex element must be present? Sex certainly has it's place in film, to be sure, but it's use in this movie makes no sense whatsoever. In trying to follow the Amazon guidelines, I'll not recount the numerous, numerous "problems" in this movie as they relate to the original story; I'll just end by saying...So many missed opportunities to make a great film from a classic story. The filmmakers missed the mark entirely, in my opinion, and wasted, indoubtedly, several million dollars in the process.
This movie is terrible! I'm glad I rented this before buying it.
on November 16, 2001
Okay boys and girls this is the deal, this is pretty much a b movie; so like any b movies if you want to enjoy them you have to go into it w/ a clean slate and take everything w/ a grain of salt, if you do, its a good show, a fun show. Now I must refute one reviewer who fancies the rest of us as vulgar and stupid if we actually enjoyed the flick. He goes on and on comparing it to the original poem, well this isn't the poem; this show, like any remake, is done very loosely on it. Being a b movie if they made an exact duplicate of the poem its doubtful it'd be so enjoyable. To that end one other reviewer didn't like the blend of the dark ages, being confused why such things as bifocals and other modern implements appear, there's a reason. If the reviewer had read the back of the movie box it says its sent in the future. Hey if somehow tech was erased and we plunged into another dark age, they'd probably would integrate these things in their societies.
Okay as a b movie its cool. Chris Lambert does his usual kick butt job, portraying a character that looks, and fights something very similar to Dante from the ps2 game devil may cry. The fights and costumes are wonderful, very clever stuff; the outpost castle is crumbling and shaped so wonderfully weird that you have to like it (unless you're after a show that has a line by line translation from the poem). Lambert is great, pretty much unkillable, kind of a dark past, but he's not a total brooder, the girl he meets does change him, or at least changes his mind. Lambert has what seems like a billion weapons on him and as he fights he twists and pulls and on existing weapons, and other weapons appear. He's like a walking swiss army knife, unscrew the shaft on this, twist that, hey another a mace and chain.
The monster grendel is pretty well done, that is for a b movie. The reason that I liked is that the makers of the show were smart. I mean how many times have you seen a show where the big bad monster came into the light and he looked like a latex wreak? Exaclty. A b movie doesn't have the budget to make a totally cool monster so how do you fix it? Grendal stays in the dark and shadows, the darkness effectively hiding him somewhat, then to make it better, the film makers added purplish waves that surround him like an aura that kind of hides any blemishes, that's why I felt it was well done, because theres no way that thing would be scary if it was completly shown.
on November 1, 2001
This movie is absolutely horrible. I don't know if the director was trying to place in it in a post-Apocalyptic scenario or what, but it is nothing like the real Beowulf. The poem creates so much imagery by itself the director could have just put that on screen. Instead, he has to make some horrible thing with fight scenes that make no sense, a plot that bears little resemblance to the poem (when one can figure it out), and stupid added elements have no place in the Dark Ages of Europe (like elevators, bifocals, leather pants etc.) Even the monsters are bad. Grendel is only a 6 foot tall, corpse with teeth, when in the poem is a towering demon-giant. Beowulf is 50 years old and still able to do nonsensical flips with an easily recognizable stunt double. Herot is a rusty outpost, when it should be a palace of gold. This movie would probably only appeal to uneducated people who only like blood, gore, and sex scenes featuring horny monsters. If you want to get the full experience of Beowulf, read the poem. However, these other reviewers were right, the music is cool at some points.