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Canadian Beowulf & Grendel Review

Published March 22, 2006 in Early Reviews
By Ryan Parsons | Image property of Columbia Pictures
Beowulf & Grendel Poster Poster for Beowulf & Grendel
It is no secret that Beowulf & Grendel, starring the very loved Gerard Butler, has a die hard group of supporters. The film has slowly made its way across the globe and is now knocking on North America's door. The latest breakthrough for the film was its release to Canada, which most had figured would ease the film's way into the US. Though Beowulf & Grendel is not in the US yet, it is still getting some very positive reviews from our friends up north.

Beowulf & Grendel Review

I have recently received a couple emails from Lise Leveillee who had not only given us an extensive look at Beowulf & Grendel but at Gerard Butler himself (coming later). Since we have yet to get our mitts on the film, check out the review/rundown from Lise below (spoilers alert):

In the prologue “A Hate is Born”: The first sight that catches your eye is an incredible view of a landscape and you are transported almost immediately into the Epic that is Beowulf.

A very tall man is standing there playing with his little son, what is more normal than that and yet, you soon find out that there is nothing normal about them as the man stops to sniff the hair and urges his young son to come to him.

The man and the child are trolls, pursued by Danes and trolls are hunted down till killed as we will find out.

The troll, totally unarmed is shot down by arrows as his young son watches in horror and falls down a cliff.

As the last of the Danish warrior prepares to leave, he spots the young boy hiding on a ledge of the cliff and as man and troll child stare at one another, there is born Grendel in the eye of the troll child as he growls at the killer of his father, at King Hrothgar (all played with intensity by the brilliant Stellan Skarsgard).

Push forward to Danesland, several years later as the adult Grendel (Ingvar Sigurdsson, the real-life father of the child playing Grendel, and an actor to be discovered since you can feel all his pain, all his anger at what was done to his character) sits in his cave and gazes at the mummified head of his father, that he lets out howls of pain and may we believe promises of revenge.

As we see Grendel approach the beer hall poised against the door, we can almost see what is there to be found the next day.

Next comes our first glance at the incredibly talented and good-looking Gerard Butler as Beowulf (yes, I admit to being a Tart but I couldn’t have written a review about the movie at TIFF since I was more concentrated on my idol than on the movie but having seeing it over 3 times since it opened on March 10, 2006, I feel I can now make an honest critic of it) who appears to be just waiting for the director to say “Action!" It is quite a scene to witness and works for what we are told of Beowulf.

We get our first glance at Tony Curran (an actor who unfortunately seems to more known for playing roles in vampire movies more than anything, too bad, since I can see the potential there for using such an actor in more well-defined role) being teased as he plays Hanschow (is that how his character’s name is supposed to be written? That is how it sounds to me) and we hear Brekka saying that Hanschow’s wife will finally get a rest.

When talk first began for Beowulf & Grendel, it was often mentioned that the actors sounded like a bunch of guys hanging around bars and having a good time, well, they do sound like that, lots of swearing, lots of four-letter words. If your ears are easily offended by crude language, please try and remember that warriors did speak as crudely as that even a long time ago.

The first encounter between Selma (the talented and versatile Canadian Sarah Polley), standing on a hill, and Beowulf (Gerard Butler) walking at a distance from where she is already gives us a hint that there will be more between Selma Beowulf than meets the eye. As the witch Selma, in that particular scene, Polley looks like she just stepped out from the sea and she is about to cast a spell on the whole crowd there.

How low has Hrothgar gone in gloom is seen in his first encounter with Beowulf. Already, we had seen him trying to fight Grendel and only winding up being ignored by the latter to be found the next morning, a king kneeling in front of one his men, dead, and being berated by his queen (the actress is very good, very beautiful, very refined but unfortunately I do not know her name; Sturla Gunnarsson described her as “the lusty queen” at TIFF) for lowering himself so in the eyes of his people.

It is a sad and older Hrothgar that meets Beowulf and comments that “Nobody tells him anything!” and then on taking a good look at Beowulf says: “I remember you smaller” to which Butler replies: “I was 8 when I left!” The exchange is entertaining.

The tone becomes more somber when the Geats get their first encounter with Grendel who, having no quarrel with them, limits himself to urinating on the door! One can almost smell the stench as we see our Geat heroes holding their noses in disgust.

But Grendel is not all into revenge. He even takes the time to play bowling with the heads of his victims and where we should feel horror, we cannot help ourselves but laugh at his excitement after having knocked one out. Soon though, our hero, Beowulf realizes that there is more than meet the eye with the whole situation where Grendel is concerned.

Gerard Butler is an actor renowned for going after the softer side of some very hard characters, making them more human, more real. And he does that again here with Beowulf making his hero sense that there is more to Grendel’s murderous rampage against the Danes than what meets the eyes. This is a very compassionate hero here who soon finds out that Grendel is only killing Danes warriors, no women, no children, and no old men.

The Geats finally encounter Grendel's cave and their actions their set off a chain of events that turns the troll agains the Geats.

After various acts of disrespect, Grendel finally has a reason to attach the Geats and as Beowulf points out later to Hrothgar: “He killed on Geat, the one he held for blame. He could have killed more!” Beowulf continues to feel pity for his enemy throughout the film.

As the Danes and Geats celebrate the end of gloom, one has to wonder if this is really the end of their troubles. Even as Hrothgar and Beowulf exchanges rowdy tales of kings they know, especially one named Sig who goes to war with six legs and has done it with a rabbit and got stuck. This scene even though loaded with lots of crude language is hilarious and whether you like it or not, you find yourself laughing with them, imagining the depraved Sig.

However, the story eventually heads towards its doomed conclusion with a couple of wonderfully emotional scenes along the way.

The final time that Beowulf will gaze at Selma is memorable as she stands next to her son and they both have a look on their faces that proclaim that should he ever come back, they will greet him warmly.

This is an entertaining movie, a refreshing one, not only for scholars who have read the original poem, the very first poem written in ancient Saxon but also for those who love a good adventure and action movie. I don’t normally see a movie more than once when it comes out, even movies starring Gerard Butler, but I can say I have seen this one 4 times already and will certainly go back and see it.

We have been waiting so long for the film to arrive in the states we are beginning to wonder if the only way in is through a DVD case.

Beowulf & Grendel comes to theatres some time in spring 2006.

For the posters, more movie info and the trailers, go to the Beowulf & Grendel Movie Page.

Stay tuned for updates.

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Ryan Parsons
Sources: Image property of Columbia Pictures

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