Monday, December 03, 2007

Beowulf,The Corrupt, Beowulf The Hero.

The two most interesting and thought provoking movies I've seen this year are 300 and now Beowulf. Both are animated action movies that some describe as guilty pleasures. There is nothing guilty about the pleasure of viewing either of them, especially Beowulf.

The movie succeeds on many levels. The animation is very well done and the 3D effects are amazing. Despite the occasional spear coming out of the screen, the 3D effects were not overdone. Mostly 3D gave the picture a fuller and more real look with depth.

There were three previews before the movie for 3D movies coming next year. 3D could help the business. Not that it would add much to dramas or romantic comedies, but it would work really well in more action-oriented films. It might give more people a reason to shell out big bucks for the theater experience instead of waiting for the DVD.

Beowulf is not a straight telling of the ancient poem. The writers changed the plot in ways that gave the movie a bit of a modern sensibility. The original unalloyed heroic story is replaced by a story about a flawed man who does heroic things but also is corrupt.

The movie becomes more of a tragedy with Beowulf's tragic flaws being his weakness for lust combined with a vain ambition for glory and power which cause him to divert from being heroic and also make him willing to live a lie to get what he wants for himself. He's not an evil person but he's not a pure hero, either. The changes make him a more interesting character for a modern audience.

The role of Grendel's mother is interesting. She is played by a smoking hot naked Angelina Jolie. Even animated it's impossible to hide Jolie's sex appeal. It's a very scary sex appeal but it's an appeal, nonetheless.

Grendel's mother takes on a much larger role in the movie than she does in the poem. The plot involves her as the bearer of Hrothgar's child and Beowulf's and is the most consequential deviation from the original poem. The change has major thematic consequences. It could be read as a bit misogynistic. Our brave male heroes are destroyed by a tempting seductress who uses her sexual power to corrupt their heroic souls. That's too simplistic though since she is merely as ambitious as the men and she uses the power she has to get what she wants, just as they do. The men are easily corruptable because of their vanity, pride, and large ambition, and they are entirely willing participants.

The movie seems to have a bit of a cynical take. That's strongly suggested in the very last scene when Beowulf's successor encounters Grendel's mother and we're left wondering what he'll do. One on level that final scene is neutral because it doesn't show what the new king does and perhaps it just shows that corruption is tempting to all leaders. But the expression in his eyes suggests strongly that he will work out his own arrangement with Grendel's mother. That's modern cynicism there and is in keeping with the movie's portrayal of heroes as having feet of clay.

Another interesting twist regards Grendel. In the original, Grendel is a descendant of Cain and is an outcast from society because he is evil. Society's rejection of Grendel is not examined or viewed as wrong. The movie changes that by making Grendel an outcast from his own father, thus elevating his moral status from deserved outcast as a descendant of Cain, to undeserved outcast betrayed by his father. It also portrays him as a victim, driven to violence by the sounds that torture him because of his very sensitive hearing. That doesn't justify his murderous rampage but making the monster a bit of a victim is another modern twist. It allows the story to suggest that Beowulf and Hrothgar are as much monsters as Grendel, if not worse. Grendel commits horrible violence to ease his severe physical pain. Beowulf and Hrothgar are violent in pursuit of their own glory and power.

There is much more in Beowulf. The movie is worth seeing not just for its incredible visuals but also for the thought-provoking themes in its story. Get to a theater and plunk down your money. You'll get cool souvenier 3D glasses as a bonus.



I went to see this movie in some lame 3D system that didn't let me keep the glasses! I got yucky reused glasses worse than IMAX glasses.
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