"A Dark Tale of Sin and Temptation"
What You Need To Know:
BEOWULF is a dark tale of sin, violence, vengeance, and loss. The motion capture animation is striking, especially during the fight with the dragon, but King Hrothgar, Hrothgar’s men and Beowulf are not likeable characters. This dilutes the heroic quality of the original story, which is quite powerful. BEOWULF also contains strong references to the temptations of sexual lust, including nudity. Therefore, despite some Christian references, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for adults and does not recommend this movie to teenagers, much less children.
(C, B, PaPa, FR, L, VVV, S, NN, AA, M) Light, undeveloped Christian worldview with strong pagan elements, including references to the Norse god Odin and to Norse gods in general, where two pagan warriors with moral flaws become kings in succession married to the same woman at different times, with implications that the Queen, who is the most positive character, has adopted Christianity and has a priestly advisor, but the story is more about the two pagan warriors’ struggle with their own inner demons and a real demon; two or three obscenities; very strong violence includes fighting, monster cleaves man in two, monster eats one man, monster’s arm tore off, a heart ripped off, man loses arm, dragon breathes fire, man commits suicide by leaping off high tower; strong references to sexual temptation and lust includes implied fornication, implied adultery, adulterous desires, sexual temptation, and female demon/monster appears as a practically nude seductive temptress, plus old king calls people to drunken revelry and “fornications”; rear male nudity, upper male nudity, man fights in the nude but objects strategically cover his private parts or they are in shadow, female demon/monster seems entirely nude but parts are in shadow; alcohol use, drunkenness and drunken revelry; and, bragging, exaggerating, lust, seduction, and man says God helps those who help themselves.
BEOWULF is not a movie for children or families. It is an animated, adult re-telling of the famous English story from the 8th Century of Beowulf, the heroic Swedish slayer of monsters. The movie’s dark, postmodern re-interpretation of this heroic mythical tale gets in the way of its wonderful, but often gritty, use of motion-capture animation. Some BEOWULF scholars, especially those following in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien who re-discovered the story’s greatness in the 20th Century, may not be happy with this interpretation, which almost destroys the original story’s heroic tone.
In this version, old King Hrothgar of Denmark and his men are drunken louts who, unlike the original story, believe in the Norse deity Odin, not God. Some distance away in his mountain lair, a demonic monster named Grendel is tormented by the sounds of merrymaking coming from the great hall built by the King.
Grendel sneaks into the hall and kills countless men, but runs away when Hrothgar confronts him. Hrothgar and his men put out the call for a hero to slay this beast.
Into the tale comes boastful Beowulf, a prince of the Geats in Sweden. He promises the Danes that not only will he kill Grendel, he will also kill him with his bare hands in a fair fight.
The fateful night comes, and Beowulf indeed mortally wounds Grendel by tearing off his arm. Grendel slinks away to his lair to die, but Beowulf learns that Grendel’s mother is a seductive demon, and she is really angry. Beowulf volunteers again to kill the beast, but a little more reluctantly this time. Grendel’s mother, a demonic temptress who appears for all practical purposes naked, has a couple tricks up her sleeve. Also, King Hrothgar has an evil secret that will pose unique challenges for Beowulf.
Beowulf fails these challenges in the second act. This leads to the third act, a battle with a dragon, that takes place 20 years or so after Act One and Two.
The third act of BEOWULF is quite striking and entertaining, but the first two acts are particularly dark. In fact, the two most important main characters, King Hrothgar and Beowulf himself, are not very likeable men who have strong moral flaws. This dilutes the jeopardy they face in the movie’s first two acts, because it lessens the heroic nature of the original tale. Discerning viewers with a strong sense of morality will find it hard to identify with this Hrothgar and this Beowulf.
MOVIEGUIDE® has lots of other reservations about this movie. BEOWULF deletes the references to God in the original poem by an anonymous Christian monk and replaces them with references to Norse pagan mythology, but, unlike the original, it adds some explicit references to Jesus Christ and Christianity. In fact, the most positive character in the movie, Queen Wealthow, has become a Christian by the movie’s third act, which takes place 20 years or more after Beowulf’s encounter with Grendel and Grendel’s demonic mother. The Queen, who wears a crucifix, is shown having a Christian priest for a spiritual advisor. Thus, the movie shows that the Danish society is gradually going through the change of becoming a Christian culture.
Despite this, the story’s focus is on the struggles that King Hrothgar and Beowulf have with Grendel’s mother and with their own inner demons. This takes away from the Godly heroics of the original poem, which is quite powerful, especially when read in a good modern translation more accessible to today’s dumbed-down culture.
The BEOWULF movie is not a movie for children or families. It is a dark story about sin, violence, vengeance, and loss. And, it contains strong references to the temptations of sexual lust, including nudity. Therefore, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for adults and does not recommend this movie to teenagers, much less children. People of faith and values will find the original poem more inviting. It is a true classic of literature.