Tag Archives: Beowulf

Beowulf 3D * Robert Zemeckis * 2007

BeowulfIt seems that the filmindustry has come up with something to get the audience back from their supersized tvs and dolby surround sets: the 3D movie. Because of the theme I was interested in this film and also I was curious how far the technique of 3D film actually is, so we went to see the spectacle of “Beowulf”. Let me start with the film.
The version of Zemeckis stays much closer to the 8th century poem than “Beowulf & Grendel”, which is a big plus. Beowulf comes to help king Hrothgar who has problems with a man-slaying monster which is much closer to the description in the classic epic than in the other film. The fight with Grendel is rather short and some details are nicely introduced to the film. The killing of Grendel doesn’t solve the problem, since his mother comes to take revenge and it is with the introduction of this mother, that the story begins to show adaptations. Instead of a fierce, man-eating monster, the mother of Grendel has become the beautiful, naked (but sexless) Angelina Jolie who seduces kings and has great riches. Beowulf goes to fight her like in the story, becomes king when Hrothgar dies and builds a massive castle. None of this comes from the poem. The drinking cup that unleaches the dragon (see later) got a big promotion too. What Zemeckis does use and very well, is Beowulf’s fight with the dragon, a part of the story that is completely left out in “Beowulf & Grendel”. Also the end follows the poem, so inspite of a few (rather big) adaptations, this new version of the Beowulf poem is fairly true to text.
Next, the film. Instead of red and green coloured glasses, you now get glasses that slightly shift your view in order to bring the two layers of film together. This produces amazing depth! I was impressed how clear this 3D looks and how much depth can be made with this technique. What is less impressive, is that everything is ‘animated’, so even though in the characters you can clearly see Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich or Anthony Hopkins, they all come from the computer obviously. What I found most strange is that the character such as Beowulf, Wiglaf of Grendel’s mother is amazing in detail, while Unferth and sometimes Wealthow look like clay figures. It is af if there was not the time or the money to make everything equally perfect. What is a big pro of the computer technique is that Grendel is brilliant. He is big, ugly, drewls and bleeds all over the audience and at least is able to eat a man in a few bites (the fact that Grendel is turned into a pityfull creature is an adaptation, but does add something to the film). As for the rest, the film is obviously made to be a 3D film. I wonder what it looks like in the normal version, because scenes in which the camera slowly moves backwards through a forest, or into the mead-hall from above or a warrior pointing his spear towards the audience will look silly if not in 3D. The 3D here and there has Disneyland things just to show it is 3D, but in many cases, it really adds an extra layer to the film experience. When Wealthow almost falls down the way too high castle of Beowulf, the depth is amazing and especially with the extremely carefully constructed fight with the dragon is impressive (I think this scene used most of the budget). In normal scenes with people in a hall, the 3D is a nice extra, but it really shows its value in fighting scenes (men and rubble being thrown into the audience, the extreme depth of a cliff that the dragon flies over, etc.).
Because the best effect is produced when looking through the classes in a particular way, I had to keep my head quite still and eventually I got a bit of a headache. There are also some elements can have to be improved (try working with real actors please!), but overall, for the first 3D film that I see, I am really impressed and it surely is a technique to develop further in order to give cinema a new impulse.
Conclusion: a 4 out of 5 for the film (story) and a 4 out of 5 for the filmimg. If you want to see “Beowulf”, be sure to see it in 3D!

Beowulf & Grendel * Sturla Gunnarson * 2005

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.
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Beowulf * Graham Baker * 1999

As the title suggests this film is based on the epic poem “Beowulf”. If I am correct this is the oldest known text in the English language. It is said to be from the 6th century. So, in the 6th century they already wrote sci-fi?! I don’t know “Beowulf” myself (but I know the personage with the same name from “Tristan and Isolde”, a German saga), but I suppose this is a very loose interpretation or everything that isn’t described in the text is filled in by the makers of the film. The film “Beowulf” became one of these sci-fi’s playing in an imaginative past (?), like “Mad Max” or “Highlander”. Christopher Lambert is the mysterious stranger Beowulf who travels to a castle to fight the beast Grendel who kills all the inhabitents. The superhuman Beowulf falls in love with wonderbra Kyra and of course kills the supernatural beast and all ends happily. Alright.