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Western Animation / Beowulf (2007)

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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 POWER!

Beowulf is the 2007 film written by Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman, directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring Ray Winstone.

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.

A novelization of the film was also written by Caitlin Kiernan.


Beowulf provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Played with. Grendel's mother seems quite harsh towards him and he fears her almost as much as he loves her, but she is quite right in her belief that, if Grendel disobeys her by disturbing humans, they will come and try to kill them (or at least him, who is not a magic user like she).
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Grendel's mother is poorly described in the poem, but is traditionally considered some ugly kind of ogress or witch. In this film she has two forms: one is a sexy siren played by Angelina Jolie, and the other is a draconic but still rather cute monster.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film expands on several aspects of the poem, like the role of the monsters or the characters's personal lives, while the novelization expands on the film itself.
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  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Grendel's mother is described as "flaxen-haired" in the novelization instead of the brunette she was in the film.
  • Adaptational Modesty:
    • The dragon in human form is described as dressed in a strapwork harness of curled leather in the novelization, but in the film he never wears any clothing.
    • The video game lets Beowolf keep all of his clothes in his battles against Grendel and his mother.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Both in the poem and film, the dragon only attacks Heorot after the drinking horn is stolen, which in the film is interpreted as a breaking of their pact. However, in the novelization the dragon implies he deliberately left the horn to be found in order to invoke the situation and have an excuse to kill Beowulf. He also states he isn't acting on behalf of his mother, but because he hates Beowulf for giving him a life as a Child of Two Worlds unable to fit in either, making him much more vicious than the relatively reactive dragon from the film and poem.
  • All Trolls Are Different: The novelization mentions trolls, especially when comparing Grendel with them, but it's stated he is not one of them, and his mother even gets angry at the insinuation.
  • Ambiguous Ending: At the end of the film, Grendel's mother looks at Wiglaf seductively, likely enticing him to give her a son like Hrothgar and start the cycle again. Depending of how do you interpret Wiglaf's expression, he might be considering to accept her offer, pondering about the tragedy, or expressing a subtle rage towards her. The novelization has him doing the three things before ultimately refusing, although it shows Grendel's mother smiling at the thought she might get her goal sooner or later.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • Beowulf claims to have killed nine sea serpents in his swimming race, while Wiglaf recalls he said only three the last time. Assuming the onscreen battle is what really transpired (and it might perfectly be, as it shows a moment of the fight he notably omitted from the tale - the mermaid), he actually slew seven, if every gruesome eye-shot was a kill. Nevetheless, given that the theme of the movie is precisely that stories of heroism are often untrue, you never know. This is averted in the novelization, where he slays three and it is the number he says to Unferth.
    • Why the horn glows in the darkness is not addressed in the film, implying that it is magical and has that property, or maybe that it reacts to the presence of Grendel's mother. Again, this is explained in the novelization, which shows Beowulf realizing it was actually a magic trick done by Grendel's mother herself to guide him to her through the cave.
  • Anachronism Stew: The film features Christianity becoming established in Denmark in the 6th century (which actually happened in the 10th) and has references to Vinland, Iceland, Orkney and Norway centuries before they were established or became relevant to the Danes.
  • Animal Motifs: Beowulf uses a wolf as his sigil (and is called a wolf by Grendel's mother) and the kings use a dragon.
  • 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.
  • An Arm and a Leg: When Beowulf fights Grendel when Grendel attacks the mead hall the second time, Beowulf rips Grendel's arm off by trapping Grendel in the doorway and slamming the door on it. At the end, Beowulf amputates his own left arm so he can rip out the dragon's heart with his right hand. In Grendel's case, the arm is later seen above the mead hall's door.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • In real life, it would be impossible for a beast of the dragon's size to have such a small heart due to the high pumping strength he would need to send all his blood through his body. Also, a proportionally-sized heart would be attached by tons of flesh and thus it would be almost impossible to pull out manually. (Similarly, a correct heart would be probably located deep into the ribcage and not in the center of the neck, making it much less reachable through his throat hole.) These biological oddities are roughtly justified, however, because he is a supernatural creature whose dragon form is implied to be a magic work.
    • The sea serpents are apparently reptilian predators, yet they have a single, large and very human-like eye. Without mentioning the eye number issue, an eyeball that large and exposed is an evolutionary nuisance, especially in a sea creature: it would hinder their swimming ability and at the same time would make an incredibly easy target to any hunting opponent. Also, the creatures would have to be Made of Plasticine for a man to be able to bore a tunnel through their palate in mere seconds and using just a sword.
  • Artistic License – History: Hondshew carries an Ulfberht sword that is two-handed. Not only is this set in the late 6th century and the Ulfberht swords were more prominent in the 9th century, there hasn't been any archaeological evidence that any of them were two-handed.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: Beowolf's insignia is a wolf, obviously corresponding to his name, at least the second half. But his full name actually translates as "bee wolf", a kenning meaning "bear" (because bears hunt for honey), such a tradition being relatively common these days.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • In the original poem, Wiglaf only joins Beowulf at the end when he fights the dragon. Here, he's Beowulf's best friend and sidekick since the beginning. This change avoids an Adaptation Induced Plothole because Wiglaf doesn't kill the dragon in the movie, unlike in the poem, yet he succeeds Beowulf as king in both.
    • The escaped slave that steals the dragon horn (a random golden cup in the poem) and brings the dragon's wrath is just a random slave in the poem that never appears again. In the movie, the slave belongs to Unferth, and we see him several times before and after he steals the dragon horn.
    • Wealthow is greatly expanded from the original source where she was only Hrothgar's queen and the thanes' hostess. In this version she is an unhappy wife and queen, is attracted to Beowulf, and marries him after Hrothgar's death. As a result, she still has a role in the final act of the story, unlike in the poem where she stayed in Denmark while Beowulf returned to Geatland.
    • Unferth only has one line in the original poem, and like Wealthow, he is absent after Beowulf returns to Geatland. In the movie, he both relays the news of the horn's theft and the dragon's attack and motives. Especially ironic is his status as a token Christian in Hrothgar's court and the presumed responsible of the kingdom's conversion to Christianity during Beowulf's reign while Beowulf himself remains a Pagan: in the poem, Beowulf was the Christian (although it's speculated that this was an addition to an original, all-Pagan version) and Unferth was a thyle, one of whose proposed translations is a priest of Odin.
  • 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 kills the sea serpents by stabbing them in their large eye.
    • Beowulf's men attempt to hack Grendel's head off or stab him in the balls, but Grendel has a hard head and no testicles. Then when Beowulf realises that loud noises hurt Grendel's large exposed ear drum, he starts bellowing as loudly as he can and smashes it bloody with his fist to take most of the fight out of Grendel.
    • Averted with Grendel's mother—Beowulf is warned to keep her on land, away from the water from which she draws her power, but he gets Distracted by the Sexy.
    • Finally, he 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.
  • Author Appeal: The High-Heeled Feet of Grendel's mother were added by director Robert Zemeckis, according to Gaiman and Avary, although Gaiman acknowledged it was a nice touch as several mythological female demons have unnatural feet.
  • Award-Bait Song: A Hero Comes Home by Idina Menzel.
  • Badass Boast: Beowulf's quote at the top of the page.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy:
    • In his naked fight against Grendel, Beowulf seems to have this if you slow down the film, as there are parts where his genitals would be visible but aren't.
    • Another example, probably in-universe, is Grendel's Mother in human form, who lacks nipples and genitalia, although they might be there under all the liquid gold.
    • In-universe example with Grendel, whose lack of genitals is pointed during his fight with the Geats.
  • Bawdy Song: The Geats singing songs of this sort. They also do this at Beowulf's request to attract Grendel, and it works.
  • 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.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The old Beowulf complains that being king was not like what he imagined when he was young.
  • Big Guy Rodeo: Happens when Beowulf clings himself to Grendel's back.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Grendel and his mother speak Old English, the language of the original poem.
  • Black Speech: Grendel and his mother can only speak Old English. The European Spanish dub changes it to regular Spanish splashed with Old English words.
  • Bloody Murder: In the novelization, instead of magically evading Beowulf's strike and then melting his sword with another spell, Grendel's mother does a physical Barehanded Blade Block and the blood of her wound corrodes the blade instead.
  • Body Horror: Grendel has patches of golden skin, but otherwise shed much of it and parts of the inside of his body are visible. His skull and body are also hideously malformed, giving him the appearance of a giant zombie. And he has no cock.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Beowulf has this before he discovers the corpses of the guards hanging from the rafters of the castle.
  • Catchphrase: "I am Beowulf," and variations upon "I'm here to kill your monster."
  • Censor Steam: Beowulf fought the monster Grendel unarmed and completely naked. 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 Gun:
    • Grendel's exposed eardrum, and the royal dragon horn. Beowulf discovers that Grendel's exposed eardrum is his weak point, and punches it repeatedly to get the upper hand on Grendel during their fight. The royal dragon horn is given to Beowulf by Hrothgar for defeating Grendel, and it's taken by Grendel's mother to maintain their deal before it's abandoned decades later.
    • Despite everyone using a "short sleeve" version of mail, when Beowulf fights the dragon he puts on mail that has a long left sleeve and a short right sleeve. The climax of the fight is only possible because of that one long mail sleeve.
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Skill: If Beowulf's claims of killing a tribe of giants in the Orkney Islands are true, the experience gained in the fight was probably the reason of the skill he shows to fight a similarly giant humanoid like Grendel.
  • Combat Parkour: Beowulf defeats Grendel by using his mobility, agility and knowledge of the environment to defeat Grendel in the mead hall. And the occasional Chandelier Swing.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: A four issue one IDW Publishing.
  • Compressed Adaptation: In the original poem, Beowulf travels to Denmark to fight Grendel and his mother, returns to Geatland, wins a massive battle against the Swedes, becomes king of the Geats, and fights the dragon years later. In the movie, Beowulf becomes king of Denmark after fighting Grendel and his mother, and fights the dragon there years later. The battle against the Swedes in Beowulf's youth is replaced by a battle against the Frisians in his old age.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Grendel inflicts a few of these. He impales a thane on a candelabra, tears another in half, and bites off Hondshew's head.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Grendel's mother, as well as the mermaid.
  • Composite Character: In the movie, Grendel's mother and the mermaid are two different entities, but in the novelization and videogame, they are one and the same. Still, it's notable that the dragon's tail is identical to the mermaid's in the film.
  • 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 in a Ghostly Glide.
  • 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.
  • Cyclops: The sea snakes have a single eye in the center of their heads.
  • Dark Age Europe: The setting of the movie.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Wiglaf, as well as Unferth.
  • 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 Heorot.
  • Death by Adaptation: Hrothgar was never Driven to Suicide in the original poem.
  • Death of the Old Gods: Beowulf laments that "the time of heroes is dead, the Christ-God has killed it, leaving nothing but weeping martyrs and fear and shame." Probably an allusion to how the original poem is believed to be an ancient Pagan work that got Christianized over time, presumably losing all the elements that didn't appeal to the Christian transcripters.
  • Death Seeker: King Beowulf throws away his sword, rips off his armor and dares a Fresian raider to earn his place in history by planting an axe in his chest. He can't do it.
    Beowulf: You know why you couldn't kill me, my friend? Because I died many years ago.
  • Devil, but No God: While it is never revealed if Grendel and his kin are literal demons, they are the only supernatural creatures in the setting; the humans are left to face them with just their iron swords and the strength of their arms (a human witch capable of real magic appears in the novelization, but she's clearly not in their league). Better exemplified by Hrothgar when he says the gods won't do for them what they won't do by themselves.
  • 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.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: There's unsubtle phallic symbolism in how Beowulf's erect sword melts under the caresses of Grendel's mother.
  • 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: If you interpret the ending as Wiglaf falling for the offer of Grendel's mother and starting again the Cycle of Revenge with more monsters likely coming to plague the land.
  • Draconic Humanoid: Grendel's mother may look like a gold-painted 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.
  • Dream Weaver: Grendel's mother can weave nightmares, which she does to warn Beowulf of her rage.
  • 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 something else 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.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Queen Wealtheow does this to Beowulf when he starts taking off his clothes. When he drops his chainmail to the floor and stands naked in front of her, she stares at his crotch in awe and almost faints before catching herself and running out of the room.
  • Epic Fail: Hondshew, in fighting Grendel, attempts to slam his sword into Grendel's head. It works, but the sword gets stuck. Grendel simply pulls it out, throws it away, and bites Hondshew's head off.
  • Establishing Character Moment: One that acts for several aspects of Beowulf's personality. His battle against the sea serpents shows that he is an almost superhumanly powerful warrior, but also that he craves for glory and he doesn't shy away from lying and exaggerating his feats, and finally that while monstruous creatures are nothing for him, beautiful ones are his weak spot.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Grendel loves his mother.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Grendel's mother in turn clearly cares for him.
  • Everyone Can See It: Beowulf and Wealthow fall in Love at First Sight with each other. When Wealthow asks one of the horny wenches if she wants to get in bed with Beowulf, she says that it is not her whom he has the hots for. Hrothgar also notices it right away but he cares very little, going as far as "willing" his queen to Beowulf along with his kingdom before he jumps to his death.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Beowulf exploits this on Finn of Frisia. After Finn loses the battle he led against King Beowulf, Finn demands a fight with Beowulf. Beowulf disarms himself and strips his armor, daring Finn to plant an axe in his chest. Finn threatens to kill Beowulf but ultimately can’t bring himself to murder an unarmed man begging to be slaughtered.
    • Beowulf reacts with disgust at his men taking their sweet time beating up Finn of Frisia, chastises them for it, and orders them to kill Finn quickly so he may die with honor.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: During the party in the mead hall in the beginning of the film, a dog is shown growling at the doors shortly before Grendel's arrival.
  • Exact Words: Grendels' mother swears to Beowulf that he will live and be king as long as the dragon horn is in her keeping. He didn't count on her or their son sending it back.
  • External Retcon: The film presents the events told in the epic poem as a lie Beowulf told after his encounter with Grendel's mother.
  • Eye Scream: Beowulf's flashback sees him killing sea serpents by stabbing them in the eye. In one instance, he even bursts out of one right through its eye.
  • The Fair Folk: Grendel's mother and her children. Their race is shown to be powerful, shapeshifting and clearly much older than mankind, and it enjoys toying with human men and bringing them to ruin. In the novelization, Hrothgar comments they belong to faerie lore, and a witch identifies them outright as the dökkálfar or dark elves of Nordic myth.
  • Fan Disservice: You sure didn't want to see Hrothgar and specially Grendel, naked.
  • Fanservice: There are plenty of wenches in Heorot, but everyone remembers Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother.
  • Fantastic Racism: Humans in the setting see monsters as something that must be exterminated, which Grendel's mother comments on.
  • Fatal Flaw: Beowulf has many, but Pride and Lust in particular 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 apparently had sex. This foreshadows how Grendel's mom later seduces him, as well as his attempt to cover up what really happened.
    • The last line in Beowulf's first nightmare has Grendel's mother (in the form of Wealthow) saying, "Give me a child. Enter me and give me a SOOON!" Soon after Beowulf sleeps with Grendel's mother after venturing into her lair and begets a son.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The mother's natural form can be briefly seen in the ceiling, hiding among the treasure, when Beowulf walks into he lair.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Beowulf fights Grendel naked to show off by fighting on equal ground.
  • 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.
  • God Guise: The novelization states Grendel's mother was worshipped as a pagan goddess by ancient men that "did not hold Odin as the highest among the Aesir", but also that she knew well she was not divine and that only feigned to be so because they wouldn't try to kill her that way.
  • Go for the Eye: Used by Beowulf against the sea serpents, which help by having a single, giant eye in their heads.
  • 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.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: A thane in the mead hall gets this during Grendel's first rampage. He first hurls an axe into Grendel's thigh, before Grendel grabs him and tears him in half.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: The film posits that stories of heroism are basically lies told in order to cover up questionable or outright shitty behavior, and by the time you realize you shouldn't have told your own in the first place, you'll be too old and filled with regret for it to matter. See Plato's The Republic for more on the dangers of "true" heroic stories.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: While not villainous, Beowulf is a flawed person and a liar. In an inverted example of Clear My Name, he tries to have Wealthow and Wiglaf correct the lies about him after his death and publicize that he was a normal, flawed man, but they refuse and continue to uphold his heroic tale.
  • Hell on Earth: According to one interpretation by Word of God, the goal of Grendel's mother is to sire another demonkind via humans in order to repopulate the lands, as she and her race were their original dwellers. However, this seems a bit hard to accomplish the way it is shown in the story, as it seems she only seeks to mate with the current king, has one child every time, and only does it if the previous one is killed.
  • The Hero Dies: Like in the original poem, Beowulf dies at the end, but his death here is reworked as a Heroic Sacrifice, Redemption Equals Death, and Heel–Face Door-Slam.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Beowulf and the thanes are very clear that they will kill the monsters or die trying. Both are the only heroic outcomes. Beowulf then pulls a straight version of the trope to defeat the dragon.
  • Hidden Depths: The novelization gives insight to many characters's heads compared to the film. For instance, it shows Grendel knowing the Norse gods thanks to having been taught by his mother, Wiglaf worrying at the beginning of the story that Beowulf might have legitimately gone a bit off his rocker after so many battles, Beowulf himself believing he might have been cursed by Grendel's blood, Wealthow pondering that dragons and supernatural beings should be just left alone instead of exterminated, and the dragon lamenting that he doesn't know his place in the world due to his dual nature and heritage.
  • High-Heeled Feet: While in her disguised form, Grendel's mother has natural high heels in her bare feet.
  • 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.
  • Horny Devils: Grendel's mother, considering she is called a Water Demon.
  • Hot in Human Form: While we never get a clear look at Grendel's mother in her true form, she appears to be a monstrous golden serpent with limbs. In human form, she appears as a nubile young woman wearing only a constantly-shifting gold liquid who is able to seduce both Beowulf and Hrothgar.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Grendel and his mother believe so, and later Beowulf himself shares the sentiment, mumbling that, with the monsters of the past gone, men like him are the new monsters. In the novelization, Grendel's mother gives her son a lecture about it.
    Grendel's Mother: They are weak, yes, these men. But still they slay dragons, and they kill trolls, and they make wars and hold the fate of all the world in their small, soft hands, even as you hold those stray bits of shell in yours. [...] They have neither the fiery breath nor the wings of dragons, nor have they the strength of trolls. And they are ever jealous of those things, and fearful. They destroy, Grendel. They despoil. They destroy for glory, and from jealousy and fear, to make the world safe for themselves.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: Two examples.
    Beowulf: I am Beowulf, son of Edgethow.
    Unferth: I am Unferth, son of Ecglaf.
  • 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, namely Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright, John Malkovich and Brendan Gleeson. Even Grendel resembles Crispin Glover under all that deformity.
  • Immune to Bullets: Grendel and the dragon shrug most weapons until Beowulf attacks their weak point. The mother may be inmune to any blade for all we know.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • The dragon gave Unferth a message to relay to Beowulf, then burned Unferth's family alive.
    • Grendel drinking blood from Hondshew's decapitated body and putting himself to sleep by muttering the word "killing", shows that he actually enjoyed what he was doing.
  • 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!
  • Last of His Kind: Hrothgar believes that, her sons gone, Grendel's mother is the last of her race. She believes it too in the novelization.
  • 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.
  • Lonely at the Top: An older Beowulf grumbles to his mistress that being a king isn't as fun as he supposed when he was young. She coaxes him into conceding that maybe the wenching isn't that bad.
  • Love Triangle: In the second act, the King, the Queen, and the Royal Concubine.
  • The Low Middle Ages: The first two acts are set in Denmark in 507 AD, with the third act being set three or four decades after. However, the plot makes a lot of references to events of the Viking Age, three to four centuries later.
  • 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.
  • Madness Mantra: Unferth yelling "Sins of the fathers!" after being burnt by dragonfire.
  • 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 physiology, his flesh might be effectively softer than human flesh when in normal size. It is less justifiable in the dragon, whose bizarrely diminutive heart is pulled off by Beowulf with relative ease.
  • Master of Illusion: Grendel's mother, who can disguise her own appearance. In the novelization, she also torments Beowulf with shadows of his fallen thanes.
  • 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.
  • More Than Mind Control: It's easy to guess Grendel's mother used magic to entice Beowulf, a theory supported by the novelization, but the weight of his acceptance of her pact comes clearly from her promises of glory.
  • 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.
  • Mysterious Past: The novelization states Grendel's mother is so old that she barely remembers her own past. She knows she had a mother, but cannot remember her or even her own name, and ignores if she ever had a father, suggesting that the cycle of revenge might be older than expected and that her father was a human just like Grendel and the dragon's.
  • Naked First Impression: Beowulf presents himself to Grendel in the nude, and Grendel's mother comes to Beowulf in a human shape only covered in golden body paint, which clearly helps him to accept her offer.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Beowulf's hidden side. He is attracted to beautiful creatures, which is shown by the mermaid and exploited by Grendel's mother.
  • 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.
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: Grendel's mother hides from Beowulf in her treasure cave by pretending to be an idol.
  • No Name Given: Just as in the poem, neither Grendel's mother or the dragon are named, they're only referred to as 'Grendel's mother' and 'dragon'. The novelization of the film even implies Grendel's mother has forgotten her own name; it explains the ancient men that worshipped her called her Hertha, Nerthus or Njördr, names of heathen goddesses, but it adds that none of them was her true name and she was no goddess. Otherwise, she is just referred to as the "merewife", "demon wife" or "aglaeca" (a real term from the poem whose meaning is a headache for modern linguists).
  • Nonstandard Character Design: Grendel is the only one of his race that isn't draconic, although his few patches of skin seem to feature golden scales. The implication seems to be that his deformed body is because Hrothgar and the Mother's genetics did not mix well at all.
  • No-Sell: Beowulf's attempt to strike Grendel's mother with his sword results in his sword hitting the floor of the cave when she vanishes, and she reappears behind him moments later.
  • 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 Brendan 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.
  • Number Two: Wiglaf appears to be this to the Geats.
  • Off with His Head!: Hondshew tries to do this to Grendel, but the sword gets stuck in Grendel's scalp. Grendel doesn't take it lying down either: Grendel bites off Hondshew's head and eats it in front of Beowulf.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The Geats, save for Beowulf, when Grendel bangs on the door of the mead hall, and then when he bursts into the mead hall.
    • Beowulf gets one when he sees the dragon about to breathe a fireball at him. Wiglaf gets one too when the dragon emerges from the cave moments later.
      Wiglaf: Odin's swifan balls!
  • One-Winged Angel: All of the three shown members of Grendel's race have a human form and a monster form that is typically bigger and scarier. In Grendel's case, both forms are almost identical and only vary in size and proportions, while his mother and brother are humanoids that can turn into draconic creatures. Interestingly, though, exactly which is their base form seems to vary; Grendel and the dragon return to their human form after dying, while their mother's sexy human appearance is implied to be the non-standard one.
  • Only Sane Man: Wiglaf is this compared to Beowulf and his former group of warriors. He is the only one who took the preparation for Grendel seriously, as he also played a pivotal role in Grendel's defeat.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The dragon is similar to a wyvern, with two hind legs and two batlike wings for forearms. The one we see also has fins on his tail to help with swimming, and may be fully amphibious. It's unclear if this is standard for dragons in the setting, or if he's part sea serpent due to his mother's aquatic heritage. Aside from him, another dragon is mentioned and yet another is spoken of in the novelization.
  • Our Giants Are Different: Apparently there were a tribe of them in the Orkney Island before Beowulf butchered them. As we never see them on screen, we don't know exactly what he calls a giant, or even if it happened at all.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: Different and poorly defined. Grendel, his mother and the dragons are called "demonkind" at least once in the film and several times in supporting materials, while in the novelization she identifies their race as both "dragonkind" and "giants" and is identified herself as a mermaid or sea creature. Apparently, the only known facts about their race is that it is incredibly ancient and that it came from the sea. Otherwise, they are "neither troll nor giant nor dragon-kin, and yet perhaps something of all three, some night race spawned in the first days of creation, when Midgard was still new, and then hunted, driven over uncountable millennia to the brink of oblivion," perhaps even the legendary Jötnar.
  • 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.
  • The Perils of Being the Best: King Beowulf has become so Famed in Story that raiding parties constantly attack his lands in the hope of becoming famous as his slayer. Beowulf is so sick of this he rips off his armor and throws away his sword, daring the Sole Survivor of a Frisian raid to plant an axe in him. The Frisian isn't going down in history as the slayer of an unarmed Beowulf, so he can't do it. Beowulf then tells his men to give the Frisian a gold piece and send him home to further add to his legend.
  • Phallic Weapon: Beowulf's sword Hrunting is given this treatment (or a rather exaggerated version) for visual poetry while talking to Grendel's Mother, who gives the sword a long caressing which makes the weapon's tip "ejaculate" liquid metal before flowing off entirely. It foresees Beowulf succumbing entirely to her charms and promises, as well as having sex with her and impregnating her with a child.
  • Playing with Fire: Grendel has the power of reanimating fire and turning it white and wild, although it seems to be unintentional on its part.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Grendel's mother scolds him for killing humans. Not because she cares about human lives, as she really doesn't, but because humans are fucking dangerous (if not to her, at least to her offspring).
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: See the page's quote.
  • Prehensile Hair: Grendel's mother 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: The movie is named after The Protagonist, Beowulf.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
    Beowulf: 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 humorously High-Heeled Feet.
  • Related in the Adaptation;
    • Grendel is now Hrothgar's son.
    • 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.
  • Sadistic Choice: The dragon gives Beowulf one in his second nightmare by asking him, "Which one do you think I should kill first? Your pretty little bed-warmer, or your wise queen?"
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Hrothgar killed a dragon whom he calls Fáfnir. The dragon Fáfnir belongs to The Saga of the Volsungs and was slain by the hero Sigurd.
  • 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.
  • Scaled Up: All three enemies, because they are related and Reptiles Are Abhorrent.
  • Sea Monster: The cyclopean sea serpents, which are described in the novelization as "the ravenous children of great Jörmungand, who holds all Midgard in his coils... The spawn of matings between Loki's dragon child and all manner of eels and sharks and hideous sea worms".
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The movie poster.
  • Serendipitous Survival: After killing Grendel, Beowulf wakes up to find to his horror that all his men have been murdered and their bodies hung up in the rafters. Obviously Beowulf was left alive, but Wiglaf only survived because he had been down at the beach preparing their boat for departure that morning. He would have been killed too had he been in the hall with the rest of them.
  • 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, you can see there are parts where his genitals would be visible but aren't, so it seems they weren't modelled in the first place.
    • 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.
  • Serkis Folk: Everybody on the film is made through motion capture.
  • Sexy Surfacing Shot: Grendel's mother is introduced when she emerges her naked, gold-dripping body out from the water.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Grendel's mother, which is deliberate on her part.
  • Shameless Fanservice Guy: Beowulf shows no hesitation about stripping in front of Queen Wealtheow.
  • Shapeshifter Swan Song: After Beowulf rips the dragon's heart out, it appears beside him in a humanoid form.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Conan the Destroyer, another film where a loincloth-wearing, headband-sporting, sword-wielding hero must infiltrate an underwater lair and fight an enemy immune to sword slashes who wants a golden horn.
    • According to Roger Avary, the scene of Beowulf fighting naked was inspired by Richard Corben's comic book Den, as well as the real life tradition of berserkers.
  • Skyward Scream: IN THE NAME OF ODIN! Wiglaf does this when he enters the mead hall and sees the corpses in the rafters.
  • Something Else Also Rises: Grendel's Mother caresses Beowulf's sword while talking to him, emitting some magical light from her fingers, and at the end of the talk the weapon melts off from tip to hilt. This is obviously a visual metaphor for seduction of Beowulf and his eventual sexual capitulation.
  • Sour Supporter: Wiglaf. His reactions when Beowulf tries to tell him the truth of his "fight" with Grendel's mother indicate he already suspected something from the start, yet he's not interested in the truth and only wants to follow Beowulf and preserve his legacy.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Grendel's Mother dies in the poem, decapitated by a sword made by giants, but survives in the movie.
  • Speech Impediment: In the novelization, Olaf, one of Beowulf's thanes, is a stutterer.
  • The Stoic: Wealthow, most of the time, with a bit of Stoic Woobie thrown in.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Happens twice, both in Beowulf's nightmares and accompanied by a Nightmare Face.
    • The first is Grendel's mother in the form of Wealtheow saying, "Enter me and give me a SOOON!"
    • The second is the dragon: "I'm something you left behind... FATHER!"
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Thanks to his seaside upbringing, Beowulf is undoubtedly a great diver, possibly to an inhuman degree if he actually made love to the mermaid while underwater all the time.
  • Super Strength: The movie certainly implies 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.
  • Tae Kwon Door: Beowulf defeats Grendel this way. He traps Grendel in the doorway of the mead hall with a chain around his (Grendel's) wrist, and when Beowulf slams the door shut, the impact rips Grendel's arm off.
  • Talking to Plants: A dying Grendel talks to the trees in his way back to the cave in the novelization, and they seem to talk back, shunning him because there was "some long-ago war with the giants and the dragons, and to them Grendel's blood stinks of both". He might be simply hallucinating due to the fear and blood loss, though.
  • Telepathy: How Grendel's mother and the dragon communicate in the novelization.
  • This Was His True Form:
    • Grendel's body "shrinks" after having his arm amputated.
    • The dragon reveals his human form after his death.
  • Time Abyss: Grendel's Mother; the novelization mentions that her kind — whatever she is — were spawned in the early days of Creation.
  • Tragic Monster: Grendel, as part of the general Alternate Character Interpretation of the plot.
  • Translation Convention: The people here speak modern English, except for Grendel, who does speak Anglo-Saxon.
  • True Companions: Beowulf and his right-hand man Wiglaf are always together even in combat, and it is their teamwork that ultimately defeats Grendel. Beowulf trusts Wiglaf so much that before facing the dragon, he tells Wiglaf that he will succeed him as king in the case of Beowulf's death. This is what happens.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Grendel chuckles at Beowulf challenging him in the nude, but is eventually put on the ropes so badly by his naked opponent that he tries to flee.
  • Unrated Edition: Featuring Zemeckis's original NC-17 cut of the film he intended for IMAX theatres. It's an unusual example for two reasons: one, the theatrical release of the film was PG-13 instead of the expected R, presumably for Animation Age Ghetto purposes; secondly, the unrated edition is the exact same length as the theatrical version; no new scenes are added, rather, most shots containing violence or sexual content are just a little bit more so. Content changes include all of the film's blackish blood being turned red, less Scenery Censor for nudity and none at all when it was used for gory moments, certain violent or sexy shots being more close-up and, in one instance, a mead hall attendee who was originally making out with a woman is now all up in her cleavage.
  • Truer to the Text: The video game adaptation of the film has Beowulf rip Grendel's arm with his bare hands like the original poem and that is the only part of the game that follows the poem.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: The beginning scene shows a girl sneaking a gold coin down her corset.
  • Viking Funeral: Beowulf gets one at the end.
  • Wham Line: While speaking privately with Beowulf after the latter returns from the cave, Hrothgar him if he really killed Grendel's mother. When Beowulf starts again about how he fought the hag, Hrothgar has this to say:
    Hrothgar: She is no hag, Beowulf, we both know that.
  • What the Hell Are You?: After Beowulf gets the better of him, Grendel calls out this (in Old English) and Beowulf responds with a Badass Boast.
    Grendel: What are you?!!!
    Beowulf: I am ripper! Tearer! Slasher! Gouger! I am the teeth in the darkness, the talons in the night. Mine is STRENGTH... and LUST... and POWER! I! AM! BEOWULF! (severs Grendel's arm)
  • 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.