Film / Beowulf
HE IS BEOWULF! And his sword hurts!

''I am ripper! Tearer! Slasher! Gouger!
I am the teeth in the darkness, the talons in the night.
Mine is STRENGTH... and LUST... and GLORY!

This is the 2007 film written by Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman, directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring Ray Winstone. Not (for instance) the 1999 film starring Christopher Lambert.

It's a Motion Capture 3-D Movie adaptation of the epic Beowulf. The premise is an External Retcon: the story of Beowulf as we know grew in the telling (with a bit of help from Beowulf himself), and the "true" events are somewhat different — and, in a couple of key sequences where there were no witnesses and the story relies on the hero's word alone, very different.

The film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Origin Connection: In the original poem, the dragon was a separate threat from Grendel and his mother. Here, the dragon is reworked into the plot by being the offspring of Beowulf and Grendel's mother.
  • All-CGI Cartoon
  • Antagonistic Offspring: The dragon towards Beowulf. This isn't the first time something like this has happened: it turns out that Grendel is Hrothgar's son, and it's heavily implied that the anterior dragon was the old king's son as well.
  • Ascended Extra: In the original poem, Wiglaf only shows up near the end when Beowulf fights the dragon. Here, he's Beowulf's best friend and sidekick and becomes king when Beowulf dies.
  • The Atoner: Beowulf becomes this towards the end, when he is unwilling to just sit back to let some other hero clean up his mess (and start the whole thing over again). He seems well aware that he's likely to pay for his past with his life.
  • Attack Its Weak Point:
    • Beowulf reaches through a chink in the dragon's armor and pulls out its heart. Now that is Badass. He knows this because of a speech from Hrothgar about dragon-slaying.
    • Earlier, Beowulf notices Grendel's reaction to sounds and his large exposed eardrum, and smashes it bloody with his fist to take most of the fight out of him.
  • Badass: The titular character. He swam for six days carrying a sword, killing sea monsters on the fifth night (he claims nine, but we only actually see a couple -- and that's still very impressive), tore out Grendel's arm, and stood up to a dragon's breath for a long time and, with a timely distraction, killed the dragon.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: due to the Scenery Censor, Beowulf seems to have this if you slow down the film - there are parts where his genitals would be visible but aren't.
  • Bawdy Song: The Geats singing songs of this sort.
  • Be All My Sins Remembered:
    • Beowulf instructs this "Keep a memory of me, not as a king or a hero; but as a man: fallible and flawed." However after he dies, Wiglaf and Wealthow both intend to have him remembered as a great hero.
    • Beowulf also tries to confess his sins to Wiglaf a few times, but Wiglaf won't have any of it insisting that Beowulf is a hero, and that is all he needs to know.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Beowulf has this before he discovers the corpses of the guards hanging from the rafters of the castle.
  • Catch Phrase: "I am Beowulf," and variations upon "I'm here to kill your monster."
  • Censor Steam: Beowulf fought the monster Grendel unarmed and completely naked (in order to show off by fighting on equal ground). When smoke (from a barrel overturned into the fire) isn't around, most of the battle consists of Beowulf jumping around like a circus monkey playing "Hide the Sausage."
  • Chekhov's Lecture: Hrothgar tells Beowulf the only way to kill a dragon is to stab the soft spot in its throat. Beowulf remembers this in the climax and uses it to kill the dragon, severing his own arm in order to rip out its heart. Even though it was his own son.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Grendel's mother and the mermaid In the novel of the movie, they're one and the same, but in the movie, they're two different entities.
  • Circling Monologue: Grendel's mother does this to the titular hero. She promises the trifecta of Sex, Money, and Power, strumming every chord of this flawed hero's heart and pride as she circles him.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Hrothgar killed a dragon (implied to also be descendant of Grendel's Mother), and then went to fight Grendel's Mother. She seduced him and gave birth to Grendel who then plagued the lands. Beowulf killed Grendel, his mother killed Beowulf's men. He went to kill her, but was also seduced by her and their child became a dragon, who also ravages the land. Beowulf even states that he won't send someone else to kill the dragon, as that will simply start the cycle all over again. Beowulf kills the dragon, but dies in the process. The film ends with Grendel's Mother beckoning to Wiglaf, so it's unclear whether or not the cycle ends.
  • Dark Age Europe: "The time of heroes is dead, the Christ-God has killed it, leaving nothing but weeping martyrs and fear and shame"
  • Deal with the Devil: Hrothgar is implied to have entered into one with Grendel's mother when he fathered Grendel. Beowulf does so when he confronts her in her lair, giving her a son and the horn in exchange for peace and prosperity. This results in him fathering the dragon and her giving the horn back as subtext for the dragon to attack Herot.
  • Death by Adaptation: Hrothgar was never Driven to Suicide in the original poem.
  • Death of the Old Gods: Beowulf lamenting than his people have abandoned the old gods for the Christ-God and weeping martyrs.
  • Digital Head Swap: After a fashion. The whole thing was filmed using motion capture, and Ray Winstone claimed they put his head on his eighteen-year-old body. The same sort of thing was done with Angelina Jolie, who was pregnant at the time.
  • Disney Villain Death: Played with. First, it happens to both the dragon and Beowulf. After ripping out the dragon's heart they both fall hundreds of feet to the beach below. Also Beowulf survives long enough to speak his dying words to Wiglaf. Third, Beowulf had cut off his arm and lost a lot of blood beforehand which likely hastened his death.
  • Doppelgänger Attack: In the official videogame of the film, Grendel's mother attacks by summoning several translucent clones of herself called dísirs who sexually attack Beowulf.
  • Downer Ending: For all intents the film shows an example of the villainess winning as the Cycle of Revenge seems to be unbroken with more monsters likely coming to plague the land.
  • Draconic Humanoid: Grendel's mother may look like a golden Angelina Jolie to observers, but whenever she is seen in reflection, it becomes clear her true form is that of a dragon-like humanoid with golden scales, and what appears to be a prehensile plait is actually a reptilian tail.
  • Driven to Suicide: Hrothgar, though other than allowing Beowulf to succeed to the throne, it is never made explicit why. The implication is that his guilt over being the father of Grendel and the knowledge that Beowulf has begun the cycle again drives him to it.
  • Dual Wielding: During the battle scene in the later half of the movie, soldiers are seen dual-wielding axes.
  • Dull Surprise: John Malkovich's performance was quite wooden - whether due to being unused to voice-acting or what is unknown, but hearing him "rant" at Beowulf for an insult in a monotonous tone while his character model is fairly animated is off-putting.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Grendel loves his mother.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Grendel's mother in turn clearly cares for him.
  • External Retcon: The film presents the events told in the epic poem as a lie Beowulf told after his encounter with Grendel's mother.
  • The Fair Folk: Grendel's Mother; unlike her children, who are simply monsters, she is shown to be a powerful, shapeshifting elder being, clearly centuries older than she appears, and enjoys toying with human men and bringing them to ruin. This was more explicit in the first draft of the film and novelization, wherein she was described as being the inspiration for the mythical figures Lorelei, Nerthus, and even the Greek Calypso. The novelization also associates her with the dökkálfar (dark elves) of Nordic myth.
  • Fatal Flaw: Beowulf has many, but Pride and Lust conspire to bring him down. One is heavily foreshadowed: his weakness for women is obvious in his memory of the mermaid seducing him, and makes his eventual acquiescence to Grendel's mother easy to see coming. And just as Grendel is King Hrothgar's wild indulgence taken to its most horrific extreme, Beowulf's dragon-son is his own youthful arrogance flying out to meet him.
  • Final First Hug: It is revealed the dragon Beowulf fights to the mutual death is actually his own son, by way of the same creature that was mother to Grendel. After the climax of the movie, wherein the dragon has mortally wounded Beowulf, and he has torn out the dragon's heart, they both crash-land on the beach. There, the dragon's form melts away into the waves, revealing a shiny, golden-skin humanoid. It's not quite a hug, but Beowulf looks his son in the eyes and lays a hand on his shoulder before his corpse washes away.
  • Foil: Wealthow is this to Grendel's mother. It's likely for this reason as well that she refuses to give Hrothgar the son he needs.
  • Foreshadowing: Beowulf's story about his encounter with sea monsters has him claim that one of said monsters pulled him underwater, but he instantly killed it in retaliation, thus explaining why he lost the swimming race he was participating in. However, this story reveals his status as an Unreliable Narrator, because that "monster" was in fact a beautiful mermaid, with whom Beowulf slept. This foreshadows how Grendel's mom later seduces him, as well as his attempt to cover up what really happened.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Beowulf fights Grendel naked to show off his machismo, and Grendel's mother comes to him only covered in golden bod paint.
  • Gainaxing/Jiggle Physics: The maid, Yrsa, seems to have had quite a lot of care taken to make sure her large tracts of land sway and move realistically. Almost makes you wonder if they used motion capture on those as well.
  • Glamour: The true form of Grendel's Mother is NOT Angelina Jolie with a prehensile braid. She's under a glamour to appear human, and the braid is her real form's tail. She also has a very powerful presence, and with minimal effort is able to seduce a man who had come to her lair to kill her and knew how dangerous she was.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Subverted. We only see the shadow as Grendel tears a man in two, but right after that the severed torso flies into plain sight, innards and all.
  • Gorgeous Gorgon: Grendel's mom evokes it.
  • Groin Attack: Wiglaf does this to Grendel, by sword. It doesn't work, because Grendel has no reproductive organs.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Grendel. He may be sterile (given his apparent lack of reproductive organs), and though it may just be because he's a monster he gives a good impression of being sickly. He's hideously deformed, has what appears to be a nasty skin condition, and is sometimes heard whimpering as if in pain (though that's probably just because loud noises irritate his super-sensitive ear). The dragon at the end of the film is also a Half-Human Hybrid, born of a mating between Beowulf and Grendel's mother. This is also very much unlike the original poem, where no human ancestry was suggested for Grendel except that he was a distant descendant of Cain, and there was no evidence of the dragon having any trace of humanity.
  • Honor Before Reason: Beowulf decides to fight Grendel unarmed and unarmored (read: butt-naked).
    Queen Wealtheow: [noticing Beowulf undressing] Lord Beowulf, what are you doing...?
    Beowulf: The creature has no sword and no armor. And I have no weapon capable of slaying a monster. We shall fight as equals, and fate... shall decide.
  • Indecisive Deconstruction: The 2007 film plays the myth fairly straight for most regards, but adds elements suggesting Unreliable Narrator, all sorts of raunchiness and deviations from the myth that suggest that it is a "true" version that ended up being portrayed more heroically in the myths. However it still has a naked Beowulf backflipping when fighting Grendel and being all beardy and manly and fighting monsters. A lot of arguments come up about whether or not a particular element was meant to be taken seriously.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: While many of the actors in the film are animated to look completely different than their real-life appearance (especially Ray Winstone), several actors are accurately depicted by their CG counterparts, particularly Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, and Robin Wright, among others.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: It looks like Beowulf will be this towards Wealthow. He is this to everyone in the end.
  • Large Ham: Ray Winstone as Beowulf enjoys Chewing the Scenery. He also has No Indoor Voice!
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: Beowulf cuts the tendons in his own arm in order to reach the dragon's heart.
  • Living Legend: He plays with this. He actually does some really awesome things, but he's willing to lie to look more awesome than he really is.
  • Love Triangle: In the second act, the King, the Queen, and the Royal Concubine.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: The Dragon reveals to Beowulf that they are actually father and son. However this happens in a dream before their first encounter.
  • Made of Plasticine: Grendel's arm gives out somewhat easily to the door slamming on it, being ripped out clean. However, given his clearly malformed/ill physiology, his flesh might be effectively softer than human flesh when in normal size.
  • May-December Romance: Beowulf and his "bedwarmer" Ursula after Wealtheow learned that he had a fling with Grendel's mother, she became emotionally estranged from him and gave him the Lysistrata treatment, like with what happened between her and her late first-husband/Beowulf's predecessor Hrothgar, for the same reason.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: Denmark does have a couple of hills in real life (the highest natural point being 122.9 meters, or 403.21 feet, up), but it's nowhere near as mountainous as this film suggests.
  • Nipple and Dimed: This film can show full frontal Jolie and still get a PG-13 rating if they cover her nipples with a bit of gold paint.
  • No Name Given: Neither Grendel's mother or the dragon are named, they're only referred to as 'Grendel's mother' and 'dragon'. While the same is true in the poem, the novel of the film implies that Grendel's mother has forgotten her own name.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Although the Zealanders speak in fake, but at least subtle, Danish accents — Grendel even speaks Old English — the Geats speak in the actors' natural accents, which means that the title character, since he's played by Ray Winstone, is a Cockney ("I'm 'ere to kiw your mhonschtah."), and Wiglaf speaks in Brendon Gleeson's usual Irish accent.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Grendel's mother's true form is only glimpsed in reflections. (And if you are really curious, a figure sculpt was released.)
    • Grendel's mother can be seen in full rather briefly; when Beowulf wanders through her cave, she can be seen among the gold, hanging from the ceiling. However, her skin's color makes it rather easy to miss on initial viewing.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Grendel, his mother and the dragons are said to belong to a race of ancients inhabitants of the land called the Water Demons. It's never said if they are literal demons, although they seems to be able to cross with humans without trouble.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Beowulf has to do this in the cave when the dragon breathes fire at him. Partially justified in that he turns and starts running when the dragon inhales.
  • Playing Gertrude: Angelina Jolie plays Grendel's mother, who is supposed to be centuries old. Grendel is played by Crispin Glover, who is older than she is. Although, you know, her character is Really 700 Years Old. And a Shapeshifter.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Grendel's mother scolds him for killing humans. Not because she cares about human lives - she really doesn't - but because humans are fucking dangerous.
  • Prehensile Hair: Grendel's mother (interpreted here as a sexy siren rather than the original's poorly described ogre-she-wolf-like thing) has a long braid that can move on its own. It's likely this was the tail of whatever her real form was.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
    "They SAY! You have a MONSTAH here. They SAY! Your lands are CURSED. My name is BEOWULF! I'm here to KILL YOUR MONSTAH!"
  • Punctuated Pounding: Beowulf does this when he has Grendel's arm ensnared in a chain and pinned by the door.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Wealtheow takes on a motherly role to Ursula. There's nothing to be gained by being unkind to her husband's concubine, especially if she's just some poor kid caught up in Beowulf's grand tragedy, but Wealtheow takes it an extra step, and it pays off later.
  • Red Right Hand: The movie gives Grendel's Mother the power to assume the pleasing form of Angelina Jolie, but she has a prehensile and whip-like ponytail, as well as humourously high-heeled bare feet.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What was Grendel's Mother? The novelization takes this further, where even she doesn't know what she is: she was revered as a pagan goddess named Hertha or Nerthus, but she herself knows that she is not a deity, and only allowed her worshipping because humans wouldn't attempt to kill her that way. Hrothgar, however, associates her with The Fair Folk or dökkálfar.
  • Sarcastic Clapping: Unferth does this because he's drunk and unimpressed by Beowulf's boasting and doesn't know any better. Beowulf finds it difficult to argue with a drunk.
  • Say My Name: Beowulf does this. Wealthow also screams Hrothgar's name when the latter jumps to his death.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The movie poster.
  • Scenery Censor:
    • The titular character fights the monster Grendel completely nude, with his goods blocked from view by his leg, a sword, and a table, among other things. The shadow of his thigh blocks his fun bits at several points. If you slow down the film, and realize there are parts where his genitals would be visible but aren't, it seems like Beowulf is either hung like a Greek statue or a eunuch.
    • Grendel's mother (voice, face and rendered body of Angelina Jolie) is "clothed" in weird gold water... stuff. Though this could be an example of Non-Mammal Mammaries.
  • Shapeshifter Swan Song: After Beowulf rips the dragon's heart out, it appears beside him in a humanoid form.
  • Skyward Scream: IN THE NAME OF ODIN! Wiglaf does this when he enters the mead hall and sees the corpses in the rafters.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Grendel's Mother dies in the poem, decapitated by a sword made by giants, but survives in the movie with a heavily implied case of The Bad Guy Wins.
  • The Stoic: Wealthow, most of the time, with a bit of Stoic Woobie thrown in.
  • Super Strength: The movie certainly implied that the title character has beyond normal strength and fortitude, though it's still to a much lesser degree than the strength of 30 men in just the grip of his hands.
  • Time Abyss: Grendel's Mother; the novelization mentions that her kind—- whatever she is—- were spawned in the early days of Creation.
  • Translation Convention: The people here speak modern English, except for Grendel, who does speak Anglo-Saxon.
  • Unrated Edition: Featuring Zemeckis's original NC-17 cut of the film he intended for IMAX theatres.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Takes this tack in regards to Beowulf's exploits for which there are no witnesses. Most notably, he didn't exactly "kill" Grendel's Mother. And he did more than "slay sea monsters" during that storm. Though not all of the film's divergences from the standard story can be explained this way.
    Beowulf: "Nine."
  • The Vamp: Grendel's mother. While her attractiveness is a big factor on her ability to seduce men, she also uses promises of power and glory to entice them as opposed to only sexual pleasure.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Grendel comes over as this. He just has hypersensitive hearing and the feasts at the great hall therefore cause him pain. When he starts his rampages, he comes over as a crying child throwing a (very bloody) tantrum.