Robert Zemeckis is making a computer animated fantasy film based on this ancient story but first we can enjoy this smaller budget, post-colonial adaptation from Canada and Iceland.
Beowulf and Grendel is based on one of the oldest known English language stories ever. It’s a classic tale of a hero vanquishing evil. Times being what they are, the film makers have decided to deconstruct the old yarn and infuse modern feminist and progressive values. This makes the whole story more believable and in fact more enjoyable.
We appreciate the plight of the monster Grendel and understand why he goes on his murderous rampages. We also see the folly of the Danish “civilization” and their arrogance in their quest to kill the beast. This allows Beowulf to be the tortured hero modern audiences need him to be. The modern ideal man is brawn and emotion, sensitive justice and noble understanding.
One of the main reasons this works is due to the strength of Gerard Bulter’s presence. He was a striking Phantom in the musical adaptation and the perfect flawed father figure in Dear Frankie. Here he is the perfect hero and manages to infuse this new legend with truth.
Beowulf and Grendel is striking for what it overcomes. The budget is obviously bare bones yet the film manages an epic quality that doesn’t feel cheap. It also finds value in a story which, after surviving a millennium, has become of questionable value.
Sure, the film makers play fast and loose with the story but they sell it well. Besides, this take on what it means to be a hero may be more appropriate in our more complicated day and age.