Thursday, July 26, 2007

Beowulf Movie Trailer

For those interested in seeing the Beowulf movie trailer, it's available here. We have a return to the reinvention of Grendel's mother as a seductress that seems to be popular in some fantasy adaptations, and was used to poor effect in the 1999 Beowulf movie.

I am getting the impression from comments in interviews, as well as a few of the shots in the trailer, that this film will also have the elderly Beowulf who fights the dragon. Unless memory fails, I think that might make it the ONLY Beowulf adaptation that has done this so far.

Also interesting is that none of the CGI characters look particularly like the actors who portray them (though you can see it a bit in their facial movements), with the exception of Angelina Jolie, who looks like, well, Angelina Jolie.

Promising? No, not really ... but then again, considering the many terrible adaptations of Beowulf in the past, the movie only has to be less completely dreadful in order to place it in the top half of Beowulf film adaptations. The hurdle isn't very high on that one.


  1. One could argue that the Beowulf-figure in The Thirteenth Warrior does fight the dragon in the form of the "firewyrm," a long line of matriarchal, cave-dwelling, bear-imitating, torch-carrying horsemen. So hey, in terms of fidelity to its source, this new flick is already a step up...

  2. Why do you suppose that is, that no one wants to include the dragon? Then again, it could be that the dragon would make it too long -- and with the exception of Beowulf and Grendel, this is the first post-Lord of the Rings Beowulf movie, no? The bar for *really long* movies has been raised.

    Then again, I feel like I heard somewhere that this was relatively short.....

  3. Jeff,

    I think that's right. There are plenty of adaptations that contain a dragon in some sense, but you rarely see an old Beowulf fighting the dragon...

    Which gets to MKH's question. I think the answer is simply narrative structure. Though filmmakers today might not jump through hoops to get unity of time and place the way that Shakespeare does in Othello, we still have that narrative ethic strongly engrained. Going from a few days in a young man's life to 50 years later strikes us as somehow wrong, so filmmakers and other adaptors probably feel a lot of pressure to compress time. The dragon, then, gets downgraded to an allusion or symbolic reference.

    Even Gardner's excellent *Grendel* never has a confrontation between an old Beowulf and the dragon. Instead, in order to compress time, that scene is alluded to in prophetic/philosophical confrontations between Grendel and the dragon.

  4. This looks horribly computer generated.

  5. The CGI is the element that gives me the least hope. A movie that spends so much time on making humans out of computers (when it would have been easier to just film them normally so that they don't look like they stepped out of a video game) probably doesn't have time to worry about much else. Like the story.

  6. A more appropriate title would be "Grendel's Mom" or "Angelina" rather than "Beowulf," for I think that's who's going to get the most screen time...

  7. I suspect the dragon's omission from most pop-culture retellings of Beowulf has something to do with how the poem was taught to kids in the 1970s and 1980s. By the time I graduated from high school, I'd read Beowulf twice for English classes, and I'd encountered it once or twice in books of myths and legends for kids, and the dragon episode was either downplayed or not included in the textbooks at all. I'm sure others' experiences vary, but I'd bet that's at least part of the reason why, in the popular imagination, the story of Beowulf is the story of Beowulf versus Grendel.