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Beowulf & Grendel is Impressive

Published October 7, 2005 in Movie Reports
By Ryan Parsons | Image property of Arclight Films
Beowulf & Grendel Gerard Butler as Beowulf
If you have been keeping up with the pre-production for the adaptation Beowulf set to strike theatres in 2007, then you most likely know that the film already boasts an impressive ensemble that features Anthony Hopkins, Brendan Gleeson, Robin Wright Penn, Crispin Glover and Angelina Jolie. Add the fact that Robert Zemeckis may be on to direct and it is no wonder that most have overlooked the fact that we already have a Beowulf film out right now [international market], a film that has received praise at events such as the Toronto Film Festival.

Starring Gerard Butler, Beowulf & Grendel may just be the 'small' Canadian epic that could.

Beowulf & Grendel

'Cait' wrote in a few days back about her experience with Beowulf & Grendel at the Calgary International Film Festival. What is the verdict? Well, 'Cait' does admit that she is an avid Gerard Butler fan, so expect a lot of love for the actor below:

I was able to attend the Beowulf & Grendel gala premiere closer up at the Calgary Int'l. Film Festival this past weekend and wanted to dash off a few of my thoughts about it.

Anyway, below are some of my impressions about the film and the gala event overall (sort of in stream-of-consciousness meets reality bytes format...). So, here goes:

Move Over Sword-'n-Sandals -- Chain Mail and Gore-Tex are in the House...

On Sunday evening, October 2nd, an eclectic and sizable crowd of film aficionados descended on the Jack Singer Concert Hall in downtown Calgary to attend the gala premiere closer of the movie 'Beowulf & Grendel' -- a joint venture between Canada-Iceland-UK.

This is an impressive film from the start as it opens onto the raw and unforgiving landscapes of Iceland itself. But there's also a stark beauty in those landscapes that rivets the viewer's attention and keeps it firmly locked in place through the duration of the tale. The director, Sturla Gunnarsson had wanted to make a film in Iceland for a long time -- a place where his ancestral and adopted cultures met. The shoot lasted 47 days last autumn -- the stormiest fall Iceland had seen in 60 years. In fact, the production company lost 4 base camps and 8 vehicles during the shoot due to the nearly hurricane-force winds. Winds which also compelled cast members to don no less than 5 layers of thermal underwear in order to maintain a semblance of normal body heat! In jovial response to a question from the audience, Gunnarsson quipped that "Wrapping was a good day!", adding that the landscape in Iceland is so powerful and that the elements give you tremendous energy.

Beowulf & Grendel Beowulf & Grendel
As far as assembling a cast, and especially for the lead character of Beowulf, Gunnarsson noted that in the 21st Century, it's hard to find actors who are 'unambiguously male' -- thus enters Gerard Butler, a rising Scottish actor who, for example, can hold the screen with the likes of Angelina Jolie (in Tomb Raider II: Cradle of Life). At first, Butler's agents wanted nothing to do with the project; however, Gerard read it on the plane and decided he wanted onboard. Finally, Sturla and his team got the agency over to Iceland and won them over.

Gunnarsson liked the Scottish accents and felt that they were as close as you were going to get to ancient English. Thus, he wanted to surround Butler's Beowulf with Scots and northern English actors. He noted that with Selma the witch (Sarah Polley) being an outsider, she didn't have to sound like the rest of the Danes -- and her characterization in the film is probably the closest to being accent free. In answer to another question, Sturla replied that if the dialogue was uneven, it was not a choice. He also noted that some of the expletives are very ancient. He wanted the movie to feel like a bunch of Viking bikers...

Did the talented and award-winning director succeed in bringing his vision of this epic tale to the big screen? And did Gerard Butler's portrayal of the Norse warrior fulfill the expectations of fans and critics alike? Well, having seen it for myself in Calgary, I'd have to say yes to the first question and, as an unabashed Butler fan, a resounding yes to the second! Director Gunnarsson more than succeeded in his vision for this film, and Gerry Butler brought to his rendering of Beowulf a believability and introspective quality that made it all the more compelling to watch and contemplate. His is a palpable and conflicted presence that lends the film an air of edginess and personal dilemma, as his character fights not only the external forces raging around him but the internal ones challenging his decisions and world view as a hero from a distant shore.

As far as release dates: The Canadian release is slated for March of 2006, and Iceland's release will be on New Year's Day. As of yet, Director Gunnarsson doesn't know when the U.S. release will be -- they are in discussions with several potential distributors.

Unfortunately, I am stuck here in the states and do not know when I will have my chance to see Beowulf & Grendel. I have received a ton of requests from readers wondering if Fox Searchlight would have the balls to pick this film up. If they do, expect a pretty good go for Beowulf & Grendel in the states as well.

The review of Beowulf & Grendel also serves as another shout-out to Gerard Butler, who should continue to grow from 'somewhat unknown' actor to star over the next couple of years with large roles such as 300 coming his way.

If you do receive any word of a domestic release in the US for Beowulf & Grendel, be sure to let me know.

Stay tuned for updates.

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Ryan Parsons
Sources: Image property of Arclight Films

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