Main cast: Ray Winstone (Beowulf), Anthony Hopkins (Hrothgar), John Malkovich (Unferth), Robin Wright-Penn (Wealthow), Brendan Gleeson (Wiglaf), Crispin Glover (Grendel), Alison Lohman (Ursula), and Angelina Jolie (Grendel’s Mother)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
I could barely recognize Ray Winstone in this movie. It’s amazing what a set of fake eight-pack abs and a pair of digital perky nipples can do to a man, I tell you. Like 300, Beowulf is a movie in which the production guys have placed in so much CGI-thingies that the only things that seem real are the characters’ heads. The result is a cold and detached film, where even the abundant gratuitous bare skin flashed seems more clinical than anything else.
This one is a very loose adaptation of the epic poem of the same name, though. Scriptwriters Rogery Avary and Neil Gaiman have added in some moral parables to make an otherwise Conan the Barbarian-like script a little deeper than your usual hack-and-slash movie featuring a man in loincloth. In this one, we encounter a Danish seaside kingdom where the folks are terrorized by a hideous monster called the Grendel. Poor Grendel – he’s just an emo kid with mother issues. However, Beowulf doesn’t care for empathy.
Boastful and given to tall tales to make himself look good, the man accepts the king Hrothgar’s offer to kill the monster in exchange for half the kingdom. When he happens to defeat Grendel using a method that affirms the righteousness of nudists everywhere, he sets in motion a tragic chain of events that dooms his new kingdom with his own weaknesses.
Beowulf is a pretty entertaining movie, all things considered. Our hero is not a sympathetic character, so watching his downfall is pretty fun in itself. Equally fun is spotting the sexist double standards in this movie. We can have the camera pan slowly up and down Angelina Jolie’s digitally-generated nudity, lingering on the golden-colored crotch of hers, but the movie at the same time takes pain to obscure Beowulf’s frontal bits to an unrealistic degree. Even more amusingly, the women that Beowulf has wronged love him anyway in the end because he gets to destroy and smash things to pieces – how like a man to believe that it is this easy to win a woman’s affection. The action scenes are quite good and the pacing is fine, though.
If you are in the mood to watch a barbarian-and-loincloth movie, Beowulf isn’t a bad choice at all. And really, I can’t dislike a movie that exploits its male lead’s sexuality as much as its female lead’s. God bless democracy, especially when it’s so rare in the reels!