I have been taking the opportunity to enjoy looking at some of the other movies that have been made based on the epic, namely Beowulf and Grendel starring Gerard Butler as Beowulf.
Beowulf and the Grendel takes the original story and uses it as a template to tell a rather interesting story of a man who wishes to do what is best for the community as per the warrior code by destroying the creature that appears to be attacking the community.
With the aid of a local Witch however he begins to realise that there is more to the situation than meets the eye. The Grendel character is a Troll or more like a giant, which explains his great strength. He is attacking Hrothgar’s Hall because his father was killed by Hrothgar and thus he seeks revenge.
He refuses to fight Beowulf as he has no argument with him. As the story develops we learn that the Grendel has also fathered a child with the Witch woman and when eventually Grendel is killed, we see that the cycle is doomed to repeat itself.
The Other in this film is rooted in the Witch who as I have said also turns out to be the mother of Grendel’s child thus equating her with Grendel’s mother in the original epic. She casts runes and is said to read the future. She seems however to have decided to live outside society of her own volition and this choice makes her less of a malicious entity than she at first appears. Indeed she appears to be using her soothsayer status to pry on society’s superstitions more than her having any actual powers.
The film also begins with the killing of Grendel’s father who is thrown from a cliff while trying to save his son. This immediately sets up Hrothgar as the villain of the story and as such there is little suspense as we wait for Beowulf to catch on and go home, leaving the King to his deserving fate.
The desire of this film to take use the original template is scuppered from the off when the main characters positions are reversed turning Hrothgar into a bad King, deserving of punishment, Grendel into the wronged party and leaving Beowulf the anti-hero in his quest to fulfil his warrior code.
All of these issues result in a lack lustre script aided only by a fairly decent performance by Butler which keeps the story going. Why Hollywood insists on having an American actress play the heroine is a topic that will forever be questioned. Credit must also be given to the actor playing the Grendel who is at once the beast of legend and yet the most human of characters in the film.