Sunday, November 18, 2007

Beowulf- thumbs DOWN!

This was a horrible, horrible movie. I hated it, every minute. The pseudo animation was distracting and inconsistent. Sometimes it would be good, sometimes it would be bad and look cartoon-y or choppy. The characters had no facial expressions, just eyebrows that would jump around their faces.

Worst, however, by far, was the "point" of the movie. I have no idea how the writers/directors managed to keep the same basic plot points, but completely reverse every motive, reason, and theme.

The original story was a Norse oral tradition, written down by a Christian monk. It's a hero myth. It's supposed to illustrate the values of the society, demonstrate how a "good" person should behave- kings, women, countrymen and heroes. In this movie, however, nothing of the sort is established. He didn't have confidence and faith in God/gods, he was a braggart who often failed in his claims. His men didn't leave him when they lost faith in him, but instead were slaughtered while he slept. He wasn't a humble man, simply stating truths which happened to be valorous deeds- he was a liar, and failed to resist temptation. Hrothgar's queen wasn't a noble, generous and gentle woman- she was a cowardly harridan, refusing her lord's bed- both of them. Hrothgar himself wasn't a a good and kind king, but a "shamed," cowardly drunken lecher. I would have been willing to allow the director of this modern version to imply that values have changed, and that THIS Beowulf demonstrates "modern" values, and is a hero we would look up to today. But he's not.

On nearly every single point, this movie made Beowulf out to be a loser, a sham, a con artist, instead of the shining and glorious hero he was. The society's values were not demonstrated at all. A golden drinking horn became a treasured object, instead of the swords and weaponry of the poem. Oddly, the weapons DID fail Beowulf, as they did in the poem, but this lack was not made up by his faith in God and his supremely noble character- instead, he just plain failed. Even his "bare hands" fight didn't come out right- it was never revealed that the reason Beowulf could overcome Grendel in this manner was because of the enchanted bracelet, which prevented steel from harming the monster. In fact, in the movie, Beowulf did not rip out Grendel's arm with the sheer strength of his grip, but had to get leverage on it with a chain, a door, and the help of one of his men!

I fail to understand the point of this movie. What is the director trying to tell me? It's not that morals have changed all that much and that a "modern" Beowulf would behave differently- he doesn't live up to modern ideals, either. It is supposed to be a commentary on modern society? That we value gold, not heroic deeds, in contrast to what we claim to value? I'd buy that if it ever actually got clarified, but it didn't, and such condemnations are normally satires, which this was not. I thought maybe it was trying to be told from the monsters' point of view, but that's not quite it either. All it does is paint Beowulf as a flawed, tragic figure- no hero at all. And I simply fail to see why that is significant or important to audiences. As an excuse to blow stuff up and have pretty special effects? Sure, if the effects were actually all that great looking. They weren't. All I could figure out was it was a nice way to make Angelina Jolie look naked. Whoopdie freakin do.

There's nothing wrong with the original, epic poem. It's a classic for a reason. That story is WORTH getting out to entertain, enrich, and enlighten, worth showing people how our ancestors viewed the ultimate meaning of life. The poem has endured for nearly 12 centuries. It horrifies me to think that millions of people will associate this Beowulf with the heroic Geat of the Viking era.


Celera said...

Having neither seen the film nor read the poem, I am singularly unqualified to comment. But I will anyway.

One would hope that the film would stay true to the original story, and let the viewer think about how values and morals have changed. Or, they could tell a more realistic version of the story, but keep the moral point the same. Maybe he really couldn't rip a monster's arm off with his bare hands -- but why we admire him as a hero doesn't really depend on that.

I read that the movie version added a fair amount of sexuality, since the moviemakers figured that the original poem was written by a monk, who probably didn't know anything much about sexuality. Which shows a remarkable ignorance of history, or human nature, for that matter.

Anyway, thanks for saving me the trouble of seeing that movie. Maybe I'll make some time to read the story instead.

Jasmine said...

Thanks for the heads up on this one. I loved the poem when I read it in high school and was going to see it but now if I do it will be on cheep dvd


drew's jasmine