Thursday, May 31, 2007

MSCU Review: "Beowulf and Grendel"

Thorkel: The Celt says that Jesus Christ never sleeps, that he walks amongst us.

Beowulf: Oh, that's all we need, a god gone mad from lack of sleep.

Well, this movie seemed like it really wanted to have some kind of message. Unfortunately it just couldn't make up its mind so it settled for several right out of the Big Bag O' Cliches.

It seems to want to suggest that:

a. Christianity is bad
b. Powerful women are repressed and marginalized by society
c. Minorities are scape-goated by the ruling orders of society

Hey, do you know what all of these themes have in common? You guess it: NONE OF THEM APPEAR IN BEOWULF. I'm all for examining the prejudices of society, but why does this movie feel like it needs to abuse its source material to do so? Moreover, why does this movie decide to examine these themes with the subtlety of a sledge-hammer? A little nuance would have been greatly appreciated. The Catholic priest in the movie is little more than a caricature , a two-dimensional stock character on which the movie attempts to build an argument than Christianity is bad. It seems to want us to sympathize with Grendel, yet he consistently murders men for no apparent reason. There isn't a single character who I found interesting in the least.

And the tone of the movie, it makes Tristan + Isolde look like a sunlit walk in the park. The movie is drab and dour and completely devoid of any sense of fun. My single biggest criticism of Medieval movies is that they take themselves far too seriously. Each character in the movie feels as if he or she has to look miserable the entire time. Moreover, the film is almost devoid of any bright colours, making it look overly bleak. One quickly tires of the muted grey/green/brown/blue colour pallet and hopes for the occasional splash of colour.

As for the acting, most of the male characters feel as if they have to speak in garbled accents, making them overly difficult to understand. And for whatever reason the director decided to add some rather anachronistic swearing which really took me out of the moment. Such modern swearing did not seem to fit the tenor of the film.

At the end of the day this film tries to say many things, saying none of them very well. It raises complex issues with little or no subtext or subtlety. When this is combined with an utter disregard for the source material, unappealing characters, unimpressive cinematography, unusual dialogue, this makes for a completely un-recommendable movie.
MSCU Rating: D

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