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Beowulf and Grendel

Category: Beowulf & Grendel Reviews
Article Date: September 15, 2005 | Publication: Chud.Com | Author: Russ Fischer
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[Canada/UK/Iceland; Sturla Gunnarsson]

How could I resist? With all the noise around The Lord of the Rings, this classic story was ripe for the telling. In fact, it's being told twice; here and in a film scripted by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery. To be honest, I really expected nothing out of this version, which seemed too straight to carry the weight and impact of the Beowulf saga. I was wrong.

It's all Hrothgar's fault. While out hunting, the king of the Danes and his men come across a troll. With little thought, they kill him. But the beast's son remains, and has witnessed the deed. Hrothgar fails to strike a second time, and the vengeful force called Grendel is truly born.

Years later, Grendel has begun to raid Hrothgar's hall, with devastating success. Hearing of the violence, the Geat hero Beowulf (Gerard Butler) assembles a small force; they travel across the sea to Denmark with the hope of defeating Grendel. But the troll has no interest in those not of Hrothgar's line. The witch Selma warns Beowulf that the situation may be more complex than he knows. It will take pain and blood for the hero to realize that on his own.

So: a tale of cyclical vengeance, with more than one side seemingly acting without provocation, and potential generations suffering woe in the wake. Why would anyone want to tell the story of Beowulf today?

With a terrific script by Andrew Rai Berzins, Beowulf and Grendel uses an ideal mixture of classic speech and modern dialogue. Flawlessly performed, the balance is able to draw an audience into ye olde Denmark, but never make them feel as if the film's script is a puzzle to be solved.

I was thrilled to see Gerard Butler doing some good work. I like the gu y a lot, and have been waiting for him to anchor a film that, not to put too fine a point on it, doesn't suck. This is it. His Beowulf is complex and thoughtful. Sarah Polley is his match as Selma, and the entire cast supports them well. As Grendel, Ingvar Eggert Siggurosson thankfully moves well beyond Tyler mane's Sabertooth performance (I don't know why that's a touchstone) to display some genuine pathos and depth.

Thankfully, the diverse cast doesn't attempt to conform to a single accent. Polley speaks in basic North American, Gerard Butler in his thick brogue, and Skarsgard with that cleaned up tone he uses so well. The mix works, as each actor seems comfortable with their dialogue. As a tale of complex and modern heroism, Beowulf and Grendel delivers.

 


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