Friday, November 23, 2007

Beowulf: Movie Review - 9/10

I've got a lot to say about this film, given the paper I wrote on filmic adaptations of Beowulf, but I'm behind on my thesis, so I'll let a brief review suffice for the time being. Hopefully, time will allow for writing a conclusion to that original paper in the near future, to strike while the proverbial iron is still hot.

This revisionist cinematic version of the epic poem stays surprisingly true to the heart of the heroic ethos. While many seem to have missed the subtlety of the story amidst the spectacle of 3D CGI, puerile humor and over the top gore, Gaiman and Zemeckis have raised complex issues surrounding the idea of macho heroism, deconstructing without destroying it. My guess is the story is getting lost in the midst of the spectacle, which is unfortunate; this is the best Beowulf brought to screen yet, paying tribute not only to its original source text, but to the postmodern theories regarding Grendel and Beowulf as two sides of the same coin.


  1. Awesome... i can't wait to see it myself...

    i overheard some talk about it 'bashing christianity' and couldn't help but get nauseated... i thought, "great, now that the davinci code war has slowly faded, evangelicals now have another 'battle' to fight""... although i'm expecting the upcoming war with the 'golden compass' to be much more fierce... more reason for the culture to find believers as laughable and wayyy too uptight..

    to quote jack nicholson from 'batman': "this town needs an enema!"

  2. The people who think this film is bashing Christianity are being seriously oversensitive. The film portrays an actual tension of the day between the old religion devoted to Odin and especially Thor, and the new "Christ god". I'm guessing they're disturbed that the Christian in the film is a bit of a slimeball at the outset. I'd argue that all the characters are nuanced with dark and light. I don't see Unferth as a caricature.

    The reaction could also be because Beowulf is portrayed in the epic poem as being a devotee to Christianity, but there is a good deal of scholarship which has debated the Christian elements of the poem. It is more likely that they are late additions to an original source which had its roots in Germanic culture. This is once again that tension of the change the coming of Christendom brought to the Northern peoples of Scandinavia. That Gaiman and Zemeckis made this change is not unique - no Beowulf film made to date portrays him as a virtuous Christian. Given the way this Beowulf acts in the first half of the film, Christians should be glad. He's a grade-A prick.

    I'm looking forward to the Golden Compass controversy. It'll ensure that the film makes a killing and guarantee the sequels get made.

  3. "I'm looking forward to the Golden Compass controversy. It'll ensure that the film makes a killing and guarantee the sequels get made."

    that got me thinking... do christians that get their panties in a wad about films like harry potter, da vinci, and golden compass provide more publicity than your average commercial? when you see a commercial for what looks like a good movie, you are moved to see it... BUT, when you see a bunch of people cry "FOUL!" at anything that "offends" their "faith" (which is nothing more than belief in a god with 2 hands tied behind his back) then that makes you wanna see it more!

    any publicity is good publicity...

    and these people keep shooting themselves in the foot with their apparent 'fight' to sanitize the entertainment industry...

  4. Jake L.2:37 PM


    To bolster my ethos, I included my name. So hello.

    The concern with contemporary religion is that there seems to be a reluctance for religious change. Almost all scholars and philosophers have agreed that there is one fundamental, absolute truth in this universe: Change is inevitable. Thus, when a faith-based system of beliefs does not evolve, the system itself tends to stagnate. For example: in the 21st century, specifically in our Western culture, technology and science is rapidly becoming the basis of our world and how it operates. In the face of their beliefs being "compromised," for lack of a better word, religious folks turn their back on the exciting prospects of the future and create a contrast: Science vs. Faith.
    What I believe is ultimately more beneficial for all parties (which is a huge part of Christianity--love thy neighbor?) is for science and religion to complement one another and to work together for a healthier and more informed world. Faith is a wonderful concept, but blind faith is not.
    Unfortunately to call one's self "Gotthammer" with a drill/cross-like device as the header automatically alienates many readers, and will simply add fuel to this pointless fire.

    Oh, and I watched Beowulf three times--great movie. I loved the juxtapositioning of paganism in the face of 'the Christus' and the incorporation of epic myths in a seamless fashion. That shit's hard to do.

  5. Thanks for your comment Jake, I'm not sure we're talking about the same things here. Calling myself Gotthammer has nothing to do with fueling fires. It has a long personal history, and besides, I think it sounds cool. Better than "Mike's Blog". And the "drill/cross-like device" is a hammer. Not a drill. Designed by a good friend and fellow blogger, Homie Bear.

  6. Beowulf's animation was all around impressive, though the characters' movement reminded me a lot of Shrek. I appreciate the fact that this movie gives a pseudo-education in ancient literature (never had to read the book as a child)