Beowulf & Grendel Movie Review
Beowulf & Grendel, based on the Old English poem, takes a look at man versus monster as the legendary hero Beowulf as he and his group of men attempt to hunt down and kill the troll Grendel. An international cast filmed in Iceland on what appears to be a very small budget - which is probably good since the movie made less than $100,000 in U.S. theaters.
For those not familiar with the film, Grendel is a troll (a Neanderthaloid human with more hair) who, seeking revenge for the murder of his father, starts to massacre the inhabitants of a small coastal kingdom. Beowulf travels across the ocean with his group of highly-trained knights to aid his allies and defeat the menacing, elusive troll. Gerard Butler, probably best known as the title characters in Dracula 2000 and The Phantom of the Opera, stars as Beowulf, and Icelandic actor Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, whose name I cannot even pronounce, is the mumbling troll Grendel. Other cast members include Stellan Skarsgård (King Arthur) and Sarah Polley (Dawn of the Dead).
Beowulf & Grendel is sort of like the scenery in the picture: bleak and barren. While the film does not look bad, it is definitely barebones in its presentation. There is little flash, little gloss and not much cinematography, as the camera remains relatively slow and the editing very basic. The result is a rather low-budget look that perhaps intentionally lends itself to a more medieval feel but also keeps the story from becoming truly engaging. The movie lacks tightness and consistency and the picture feels like it is adapted from a 1,000 year old poem rather than a screenplay intended to impress a modern day audience.
Not much can be said about director Sturla Gunnarsson's efforts here. The movie feels stale and looks like he just showed up with a camera to shoot characters exchanging some awkward dialogue, and then pasted a bunch of the scenes together to form a presentable movie. Simple can be good, but the movie lacks any sense of excitement or suspense, something that would be pretty easy to do given the subject matter. Andrew Rai Berzins, who wrote the screenplay, also is uninspiring. The dialogue switches between "Old English", modern day humor and unnecessary swearing. The words "bitch" and "fuck" are each used a couple of times and seem completely out of place, and the actors also resort to what appears to be modern jokes that clash with the classical dialogue. The screenplay is just too inconsistent.
All that being said, Beowulf & Grendel is actually moderately entertaining. It's a decent film despite all its shortcomings, as there are a couple good "action" scenes and the plot moves along at a reasonable rate. Despite the fact that the filmwork is rather boring, the movie itself is entertaining enough.
Beowulf & Grendel has its moments and overall isn't a horrible film, but the story could easily attain The Lord of the Rings status with the right director, screenwriter and budget. This one doesn't come close.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.