Directed by: Graham Baker
Starring: Christopher Lambert, Rhona Mitra, Oliver Cotton, Götz Otto, Charles Robinson, Roger Sloman, Layla Roberts, Patricia Velásquez.
Described as ‘An Extreme Mix of Highlander, Dragonslayer & Mortal Kombat!’, how can the film go wrong? Let me count the ways.
The film follows the basic plot of the first and second battles of Beowulf as played by Christopher Lambert. The first being the fight against Grendel, a monster of pure evil. The fight ends with, in this case, Grendel’s arm being severed by some sort of bladed weapon rather than being ripped off. The second battle is fought against Grendel’s Mother and ex Playboy Playmate, Layla Roberts. This section deviates quite a bit from the poem as is Hollywood’s wont.
Beowulf has so many problems that it can’t even really be enjoyed on a so bad it’s good level. Firstly the film, for no apparent reason is set in some weird future where people are still using swords, knives and the like. Yet there are sentries on the battlements with what appear to be fairly intricate telescopes and there are sentries outside the castle with a computer enhanced spyglass. The scenario is described as ‘Living in a techno-futile world of the future, a medieval land where technology’s secrets are locked away in a mute past’. That this aspect is never delved into is irksome as it is a completely pointless plot convolution that breaks its own rules when the computerised telescope appears.
Another major problem is with the music. Normally, I wouldn’t place this as particularly high on a list of things to ruin a film but the music by Juno Reactor is just so out of place it is untrue. It would appear that the music style is harkening to the ‘techno-futile’ future setting. However, as that is a worthless aspect the music becomes just a set of random sounds in the background. I think if the future setting had been dropped the music could have been more in the style of Conan or even Kull.
Christopher Lambert meanders through the film with very little to do and when he has a fight scene he does so many flips that he must have spent half the shooting time upside down. Maybe this explains why he appears to be so rubbish and only manages to win battles when the enemy makes a huge mistake. This is not completely true as the first fight outside the castle gives the impression that he is some sort of undefeatable super-hero.
Rhona Mitra spends most of the time with her huge cleavage pointing towards the camera. She comes off as worse than useless which is entirely the fault of the script. In fact all of the castle occupants seem to be incompetent and deserve to be killed posthaste.
A fairly bizarre aspect of the film is the number of familiar British actors appear. Oliver Cotton, Robert Wilcox and the unmistakable Roger Sloman appear, all having appeared in daytime TV fare such as Doctors or Heartbeat. This distracts somewhat as you have Lambert flipping all over the place and then you see ‘that actor out of that episode of Midsomer Murders’. Maybe it’ll have a similar effect when I watch The Bill and I will be distracted thinking ‘there’s that actor out of Beowulf’.
A final insult is the CGI battle at the end. I can say that I have never usually laughed at CGI. Generally, if the rest of the film is any good I will accept dodgy CGI and think ‘well the budget probably didn’t let them do much better’. The CGI in Beowulf is out of place and not very good. Has CGI gone so far in 8 years that a $20 million film from 1999 has far worse CGI than a £1 million pound TV show in 2007?
The positives: Patricia Velásquez is pretty good in her role as a frightened castle captive who escapes only to be caught by the army surrounding the castle. They think she contains evil from the castle and rough her up and condemn her to death. She has the obvious good sense to get out of the castle and out of the film as early as possible.
Another positive for Oliver Cotton, at least, is that he gets to have his nose licked by a Playboy Playmate as she appears with a see-through top and straddles him. Think of that next time you see him in Casualty.