There have been more than one adaptation of the ancient Beowulf poem; this review is about the 2007 movie. You know, the “animated” one. I hesitate to call it that, because it was done in a hyper-realistic style -even using motion capture for the characters- though it cannot avoid the ‘Uncanny Valley’ effect, that is, the faces never quite look real. Also, many people assume ‘animated’ means ‘for kids’- and this is MOST definitely not for kids! I can’t help but wonder why they went this route instead of doing it in live action (with Special Effects for the monsters of course.)
However, the really controversial part is that they changed the story. This is actually a reinterpretation of the poem, basically saying that certain facts were intentionally changed to hide the truth. SPOILERS AHEAD.
It turns out that Beowulf never killed Grendel’s mother. She seduced him, offering him riches and power in exchange for giving her a son. He lied about this and eventually succeeded King Hrothgar as King of the Danes (another change) but his son grows up to be the Dragon that eventually kills him (as in the poem.)
You see, this movie was used to explore the relationships between men and women, as they were in ancient times (and arguably still are sometimes these days.) Men are shown here as being driven by Pride and Lust; women must abide by this whether they like it or not, though Grendel’s Mother embodies Femininity used against men by way of seduction. The fact that those who sleep with her end up sterile is another ironic strike against men.
Also, the movie tries to humanize all its characters- even Grendel, who only attacked humans because his ears could not tolerate loud noises. And his mother was just trying to keep her species -whatever it might be- alive, since she was the last one left, humans killed the rest. So there’s tragedy going around for all characters. Though personally I could not bring myself to feel too sorry for the monsters. Especially not the Dragon, who honestly had no reason to rampage just because the “pact” between his parents was broken (by accident, too!)
While I appreciate what they were trying to do here- and it was done very well, the movie is certainly entertaining- in the end I cannot help but feel that the changes were all forced just to inject modern day values and Hollywood Drama into it. And many things simply did not make sense. Why was the horn lying where anyone could find it? Did the Mother or the Dragon leave it there on purpose to be found? After all she talked about how humans had to be left alone because they were too dangerous?
So, my personal conclusion is: nice try, but not quite good enough. Maybe some other Beowulf movie is (or will be) more faithful to the original story. Though admittedly, it would not be very long, it’s a pretty simple monster-slaying one. Maybe that was another reason they felt the need to pad it with extra stuff.
Recommended for: fans of computer animation, mythology, and adult themes; NOT recommended for children or those who dislike gore or story deconstructions.