Beowulf is a fun film.
Beowulf’s battle with Grendel is almost ruined by the curious decision to have Beowulf naked. Whether his nudity is inspired by the original poem or not, it distracts from the fight, as you can’t help but wonder which object will obscure Beowulf’s…horn, next. Also distracting are the numerous ‘eat the pancake’ moments, points clearly designed to make those watching in 3D lean back from the screen.
Though few, the scenes with Grendel are the best in the film. He’s so obviously twisted and tortured; with those sad eyes you can’t help but feel sympathy for him, even while he’s chewing some innocent’s head off. How much of this is down to the great CGI and character design, and how much to Crispin Glover’s (yes, George McFly) performance? I’m not sure. His first appearance, complete with strobe effect from his accompanying blue flame, is a tense, fairly horrific scene.
CGI seems to have a better reputation now than a few years ago, but I still don’t think it’s properly appreciated. Like Thor, Beowulf’s story is steeped in fantasy and myth—dragons, sea monsters. I entered deeply into this world, and don’t think I would have, had it not been for the great effects.
The ending is unfullfilling, which I think is due to some structural problem with the film’s storytelling. The last battle doesn’t feel final, there’s never the sense of building to a climax. The dragon fight just seems like another monster for Beowulf to slay. Grendel’s maw’s appearance at the end could’ve been a good twist, showing Beowulf as just another victim left dead in her path. But no, her appearance was all too obvious.