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Critique • Quotes • Text • Translations • At the movies

Beowulf manuscript from the Nowell CodexEarliest known manuscript
Publication details ▽ Publication details △

First publication
c. 700

Literature form

Literary, epic

Writing language
Old English

Author's country

Approx. 30,000 words

Grendel scene 2007
Grendel's mom is back and she's mad. Too bad we can't believe her.

Something monstrous in Denmark

Grendel (2007): Television movie, 82 minutes; director Nick Lyon; writer Ron Fernandez; featuring Chris Bruno, Ben Cross, Marina Sirtis, Chuck Hittinger

Funny that the 2007 TV movie is named for the monster, putting it, rather than the hero Beowulf, at the centre of the story. Funny, because the depiction of Grendel is the worst thing about Grendel.

This is a film made on the cheap—so no big special effects budget to ruin it and no big stars to distract you from the ancient story.

But it's made fairly well. A good script adds to the Beowulf essentials (as every adaptation of the Beowulf poem seems to find necessary) by giving us some credible motivations for the monster's attacks without going overboard like some of the more fantastic versions. It also fleshes out some of the secondary characters without turning into a soap opera.

The story is presented in part from the perspective of a young apprentice to the hero Beowulf, who ends up winning the love of King Hrothgar's beautiful blonde daughter in the bargain.

Solid acting is received from a cast of mainly TV veterans, led by Chris Bruno as Beowulf.

A proper respect is shown for the times of the Beowulf story and the narrative engages.

Until Grendel appears.

Trailer for 2007 action-fantasy film of Grendel.

The monster is obviously CGI, obviously an animated drawing that interacts unrealistically with the live actors who attack it. He's blood-thirsty, ferocious and all-round fearsome all right, but does he also have to be practically invulnerable? Arrows and swords bounce off him, while he rips out men's hearts with jabs of his pointy limbs.

Beowulf's secret weapon against him is equally incredible: a crossbow-looking instrument that somehow launches exploding rockets.

Once Grendel is eventually dispatched, his mother turns out to be equally ferocious, although more like a flying dragon-pterodactyl kind of thing, and equally unrealistic. Somehow our heroes prevail though, as demanded by the story.

Too bad. The Beowulf tale is thoughtfully and interestingly presented in Grendel until the action nonsense messes it up.

— Eric


Critique • Quotes • Text • Translations • At the movies

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