Beowulf & Grendel
Category: Beowulf & Grendel Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: July 12, 2006 | Publication: The Hollywood Reporter | Author: Frank Scheck
Union Station Media/ Truly Indie
NEW YORK — A cinematic adaptation of the 1,000-year-old poem that has bedeviled generations of students, "Beo-wulf & Grendel" offers a decidedly irreverent take on material that lately seems to be cropping up in all sorts of incarnations. Visually sumptuous and updated to a jokey though not satiric modern sensibility, director Sturla Gunnarsson's film ultimately lacks the grandeur and wit necessary to make the legend fully come alive. Still, it does offer certain kicks to those who like their action films infused with fantastical elements and benefits greatly from its highly effective lead performances.
Gerard Butler, who seems to have a particular affinity for larger-than-life roles, commandingly plays Beowulf, the Norse hero recruited by his friend King Hrothgar (Stellan Skarsgard) to rid his kingdom of the murderous troll Grendel (Ingvar Sigurdsson). Complicating Beo-wulf's mission is the intervention of a beautiful witch (Sarah Polley) who is particularly generous with her sexual favors.
Shooting on rugged Icelandic locations, cinematographer Jan Kiesser provides gorgeous widescreen vistas that give the film a visual power that goes a long way toward compensating for its narrative deficiencies.
Screenwriter Andrew Rai Berzins takes more than a few liberties with the source material, to varying effect. The film works best when it hews most closely to the story's mythical elements, with its efforts at providing psychological underpinnings for the characters' behavior often proving more laughable than enlightening.
Still, thanks to its visual imagination and the committed performances of its cast — Skarsgard provides welcome humor as the beleaguered king, and Sigurdsson is as fierce a villain as one could imagine — this full-blooded rendition of the Norse saga should prove a handy video study guide for students for years to come.