Beowulf

Poem, c.700
Movies
Beowulf (1999)

Director Graham Baker; writer Mark Leahy; featuring Christopher Lambert, Rhona Mitry

The 13th Warrior (1999)

Director John McTiernan; writer William Wisher Jr.; featuring Antonio Banderas, Diane Venora, Omar Sharif

Beowulf & Grendel (2005)

Director Sturla Gunnarson; writer Andrew Rai Berzins; featuring Gerard Butler, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Stellan Skarsgård, Sarah Polley

Beowulf (2007)

Director Robert Zemeckis; writer Neil Gaiman, Roger Avary; featuring Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Robin Wright Penn, John Malkovich, Angelina Jolie, Crispin Glover

Grendel (2007)

Director Nick Lyon; writer Ron Fernandez; featuring Chris Bruno, Ben Cross, Marina Sirtis

Beowulf

COMMENTARY | TRANSLATIONS | TEXT | MOVIES

Beowulf scene 2007

That's Crispin Glover in the role as Grendel, created through motion capture animation.

Beowulf as creepy action hero

After a cinematic century of little or no interest in the Anglo-Saxon classic, we have a rush of film versions: here's the the fourth in eight years.

Filmed at California studios, Beowulf (2007) seems particularly unneeded at this juncture, except for being able to offering a more famous cast—with Anthony Hopkins as Hrothgar, John Malkovich as Beowulf's rival in Hrothgar's crew, and Angelina Jolie as the monster's mother (yeah, really).

Ray Winstone as animated Beowulf

Ray Winstone's animated Beowulf

And they're given scripts by science fiction writer Neil Gaiman and Oscar-winning screenwriter Roger Avary, no less.

But the stars are presented in that kind of supposedly photorealistic animation based on the actors' real facial and body movements against CGI backdrops. The process is fairly far advanced by this point, yet there's still a creepiness factor—perhaps not a bad thing for a story so reeking of dread. The film was actually created for 3D, and reports are that it is more effective when viewed in that mode.

Beowulf himself is portrayed by veteran British actor Ray Winstone, who at age 50, benefits greatly from animation to turn him into the muscular and gymnastic hero who takes on the monster.

He's actually quite a good, brooding hero who, after his initial victory, moves over to the dark side.

Instead of killing the monster's mom next, Beowulf makes a deal with the devil. He allows himself to be seduced by her (as, it turns out, Hrothgar had been seduced earlier, which had produced the monster in the first place) in return for being made king.

Scenes from the photorealistic animation Beowulf of 2007.

Eventually, as King Beowulf ages, he has to face the consequences of his betrayal. Much action ensues as the latest creation of the Jolie monster, a flying dragon, attacks the kingdom and threatens Beowulf's (human) loved ones. It's all very cartoonish for the big action climax, with the usual incredible, mid-air, physics-defying feats being performed.

Great for the action crowd, not so for the literary set.

— Eric

COMMENTARY | TRANSLATIONS | TEXT | MOVIES

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