In a bid from true critical immortality, I finally earned my Beowulf boy-scout badge for completing not only reading the original poem, but watching not one, not two, but three movies derived from the classic tale. Yes, suck it up, haters, but I see no evidence that Roger Ebert or Pauline Kael ever viewed THREE adventures taken from the Old English manuscript, and I claim my prize with all the pompous passion with which the titular warrior slayed the monstrous Grendel and his mother.
Yes, it’s bad movie time, and this version of Beowulf, set in some ’post-apocalyptic, techno-feudal future’, makes the other two look tame, and that’s no easy thing to do to Robert Zemeckis’ 2007 ‘I’ve come to kill your monst-ah’ farrago, or the Gerry Butler Monster Hunter epic from 2005 that preceded it. Nope, this Beowulf is somehow the silliest of them all; duff movie addicts will immediately recognise that by casting Christopher Lambert and Rhona Mitra in central roles, this Beowulf has the true pedigree of a shambles for the ages. This is Beowulf adapted for the screen by the producers of the famously awful Mortal Kombat films, and if you want to see how a great work of literature looks when filtered through the mind of a video-gamer, look no further.
The plot need not detain us for long; Beowulf (Lambert) is a cross between Highlander and Mad Max and scoots around a desolate wasteland on his horse before coming across an embattled castle. The denizens are being terrorised by a creature called a Grendel, and Beowulf decides to free them from the monster. Kyra (Mitra) fancies Beowulf, but their canoodling is disrupted when Grendel’s mom turns up not happy about the fate of her son…
Filmed in Romania for a fraction of the advertised budget, garlanded by blasts of techno such as Junkie XL or The Prodigy, and directed at a pace by the man behind the lively Omen III, Graham Baker, this Beowulf also has the worst monster of the trilogy of the terrible, with Grendel half-rendered as an unfinished effect that appears to be mainly motion blur. ‘I must fight the evil to keep from becoming evil.’ explains Beowulf, but even Lambert’s low-energy, phonetic acting style can’t light the darkness here. This Beowulf is awful, yes, but it’s also inherently amusing in its presumption that what Old English poems need to appeal to teenagers is techno, gore and Playstation 2 visuals. Surfacing for free on Amazon Prime as a trap for the unwary, this Beowulf is for hardened bad-movie veterans only, but offers truly perverse rewards for those willing to consider the mind-bending action contained here. Dare YOU venture into the mad world of Beowulf?