Beowulf.

I don’t know if I should tell you to run out and see it or not. (Spoilers within)

As an action movie, it is shiny! Lots of flames, lots of smoke, lots of ringing of swords and whatnot. Enough research went into what the Danes were doing in the Dark Ages: What they wore, how they decorated stuff, that I didn’t spot anything too egregious.

However, they did screw with the plot. Oh, Hollywood, I knew you would do that, but I thought the noble force of Neil Gaiman on screenplay duty would hold it steady! Neil, did they put rohypnol in your tea? Because, damn, man. I really thought you’d do a better job.

Much as it was fun to see Angelina Jolie’s glistening breasts and thighs, and The Lips, nudged a little fuller in CGI, and the fact that her feet were inexplicably formed as six-inch heels (IBTP!), she was a living manifestation of the Vagina Dentata, and not a rotting-corpse-breathed horror from the depths. Oh. And then she turns into a dragon at the end. Beowulf battled a dragon late in his reign, but it wasn’t the same being as Grendel’s mom.

In MY copy of the book, he and his crew follow her to her lair and he kills her there. Later he goes home to Gotland and becomes King. In the movie, he has sex with Grendel’s mother but TELLS everyone he killed her. She fixes it so he can become king there. This changes his character significantly, from pure hero to basely-motivated-killer-for-hire who didn’t do the job but swindled the good people of Denmark and took the throne under false pretense.

Then, after Beowulf dies, they send him off in a burning boat. Because EVERYBODY knows that’s what happens to dead Vikings. And he was from Scandinavia somewhere, right? So he must have been a Viking. Um. No. Beowulf was buried in a barrow with all his gold and stuff. He was much more similar to the Germanic horse lords than to actual Vikings who went a-viking. Although burning boats are sexier than burials, onscreen.

Of course they had to build in more relationship stuff with some women, but I expected that.

Grendel was actually very sympathetically portrayed, and I liked the fact that he was speaking something approaching Middle English: ‘Modder, helfen’ instead of ‘Mother, help’ for example.

And Beowulf had a lot of naked screen time. Strategically-placed swords, elbows, and smoke preserved his modesty, but I did notice he didn’t seem to have any lower belly hair. He also spent a lot of time running around in what looked to be leather boxer-briefs. Fabulous, but I would not want to be the laundress!

8 Comments to “Beowulf.”

  1. By rachel, November 26, 2007 @ 7:18 pm

    Well, we knew they were going to fuck it up, it was just a question of how much. And I, for one, have no faith in Neil Gaiman—but this would require a very long explanation. I also have a certain amount of difficulty with hyper-realistic computer animation, so I was gonna wait for video in any case. But, I might just skip it, the way I’ve skipped Howl’s Moving Castle (now THERE was an animated movie I had high hopes for. sigh).

  2. By Liz, November 26, 2007 @ 10:54 pm

    Please tell me why, Rachel. I thought Neil Gaiman was on our side. I mean, he co-wrote Good Omens. That’s got to mean something.

  3. By rachel, November 27, 2007 @ 8:44 am

    He’s written a lot of pretty good stuff—Sandman, Coraline, American Gods, Anansi Boys (I haven’t read Good Omens)—but it’s all stuff that makes me roll my eyes at some level. I feel like he’s pretty transparent, as if he were cavorting around behind the text (naked, of course, as all proper cavorting must be done), shouting, “Yoo hoo! Lookit how smart I am!”

    And I want to smack him upside the head and say, “Dude! You are not the only person in the world to ever take a Comparative Mythologies class, or to read the Aeneid or the 1001 Nights or whatthefuckever!”

    I don’t mind people re-thinking or combining mythologies. What I mind is the assumption that his readers aren’t as wellread as he is (and I base this only on what I perceive in the texts themselves to be his attitude toward his readers—and I admit I might be wrong. But his work always leaves me feeling… condescended-to).

    So if he’s changed Beowulf so egregiously, my first assumption would be it’s because he thinks we haven’t read it. Trouble is, for most of the audience, he’s probably right.

  4. By elswhere, November 27, 2007 @ 10:16 am

    I thought Howl’s Moving Castle was supposed to be pretty good. Go figure (Not that that’s anything but tangentially related to the post, but, well, I’m procrastinating.)

  5. By rachel, November 27, 2007 @ 10:53 am

    It was supposed to be pretty good, taken on its own, but I heard it’s NOTHING like the book, and it’s like, one of my very favourite books. I just don’t think I could bear to see those characters done that way.

  6. By Liz, November 27, 2007 @ 1:31 pm

    Hunh. Interesting. (strokes goatee)

    Does Terry Pratchett’s stuff make you feel condescended-to?

  7. By rachel, November 27, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

    No, but Pratchett is a hell of a lot funny, and I forgive almost anything if it’s funny enough. I guess if Pratchett told the same stories but was all goth and angsty and serious about it, then I might. Except that they wouldn’t be the same stories at all.

    (Where Terry Pratchett sometimes gets the eyeroll are the stories that are ALL JOKE, from beginning to end, and you come away remembering nothing. The one about the opera always springs to mind first for that. But it’s more than counterbalanced by delicious things like Going Postal and the Tiffany Aching books.)

  8. By Liz, November 28, 2007 @ 12:10 pm

    The one about the opera is a really good one for re-reading when you need it. I also especially go to Feet of Clay and Carpe Jugulum for that. Oh, and Witches Abroad.

    Actually, I’ll re-read any and all of them just for the laughs.

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