Normally, I’ve found I frown on sword and sandal epics, mainly because they consist of the same basic formula of monologuing, long haired heroes who speak with a growl and wax poetic, the superiors usually do nothing but speak of vengeance and war strategy, all of whom look far off into the land, and the directors feature swooping scenic views of the massive land, with massive wars.
From “Troy”, to “King Arthur”, to “Alexander”, it’s become increasingly tiring and a formula that’s run out of new angles and devices. It’s a genre that’s run out of steam pretty quickly.
“Beowulf and Grendel” is basically much of the same thing, except with a different change of pace. Director Gunnarson takes the tale to a new spectrum providing incredible direction with a setting that’s both surreal and unique to watch. With an ensemble cast of talent like Skarsgård, Polley, and Butler, “Beowulf and Grendel” is insistent on being a different animal of the genre.
The condensed version of the “Beowulf” epic poem of the hero is now a film that shares two views of a war, one of Beowulf the hero who travels to Daneland and is assigned to destroy the troll Grendel who has launched a one-man assault on the army that destroyed his father, and succeeds in doing so rendering Beowulf and the army of Daneland at a loss of ideas as to how to stop him.
“Beowulf and Grendel” while exploring the battle of this hired warrior and this vengeful warrior, also explores the intervention of Christianity into the citizens of Daneland who feared for their lives at the hand of Grendel and converted for protection. However, much of the fantasy context and adventure are lost on the babbling story that continues on at a slug’s pace.
With the introduction of Polley as a soothsaying witch who accompanies Beowulf, and the constant meandering to different characters confronting their own mortality and the fate of their land, “Beowulf and Grendel” is never a cogent and interesting film even when avoiding such trappings of the genre minimizing the battle, but maximizing the sheer boredom that’s ever present on the cast.