For a long time I have wanted to read the oldest English poem, the famous epic called “Beowulf”, but all the time I had other things to read and never came to it. Maybe because of that new Beowulf film with Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins I remembered to buy a copy of the booklet. So I got one of those cheap Penguin books in modern English and started to finally read the story. Then a friend said that besides the sci-fi version of 1999 with Christopher Lambert and the upcoming Hollywood version, there is also a good film version. I think I knew “Beowulf & Grendel”, but I always have second thoughts about such films, especially when the box says: “in the style of Lord of the Rings and King Arthur”, which is probably the reason that I never bought it. The extra push made me invest the enormous amous of € 5,- and eventually watch this classic version of the classic epic.
The film begins with Grendel as a child, the first thing in which the film differs from the book. There are much more differences. To make the film more interesting, both the Geats and the Danes are still pagan, while the Beowulf epic is very Christian. Added is a Celtic missionary who Christianises the troops. Also added is a young “witch”. The fight with Grendel is stretched out beyond belief, shorter is the fight with Grendel’s mother and totally left out the fight with “the Worm”. What I think is a bad case, is that king Hrothgar has been turned into a weary old man with a grudge, while in the book he is a respectable king with a big problem. His luxery hall is turned into “some beer hall”. That for how strict the actual text is followed.
The film itself is a mediocre adventure with pagan warriors and too human monsters (I already wonder how Angelina Jolie is going to eat a man in two bites in the upcoming version). The atmosphere is alright, the setting magnificent. The comparisons on the box are not really typical, I would rather compare the film with “The 13th Warrior” or so. In any case, nice, but not great.