You know, there are times when I regret spending all those years in college...
Okay, just what in the hell is up with Christopher Lambert? Was he perhaps devoured by a pod leaving only a visually similar dopelganger to roam the Earth? Was his killed in some bizarre accident and replaced with a double sometime after Highlander? Perhaps he was strapped down and lobotomized... At any rate I think that Lambert’s career is just about over now.
I offer proof in the form of “Beowulf.” A completely unnecessary “update” of the 6th century Old English poem, which in this form is:
A: Not a poem
B: Not in Old English
These two traits alone should send your Literature-majoring pals into spastic fits of excrement flinging fury.
So much for that whole “there can be only one” thing... And as far as the Highlander movies goes, “there should have been only one,” but defecating all over the Highlander franchise is for another review.
So, where are we in our exploration of Beowulf? Well for one thing it advertises itself as “from the executive producers of Mortal Kombat” and if that don’t make you run screaming for the video store exit, nothing will. I mean, has anyone actually seen Mortal Kombat or Mortal Kombat 2? They sucked, they were boring, poorly acted, barely scripted, and suffered from obvious fight-scene enhancement illness. Why not make Dig-Dug the Movie, or Pong: The Motion Picture.
I bet no one involved in the other video games movies advertises it, “from the Best Boy and Key Grip of Super Mario Brothers...” or “From the catering table that fed the actors who brought you Tomb Raider...”
See, why advertise something that is so obviously a detriment to selling the film.
Perhaps it is a subtle warning to potential buyers/renters.
Anyway, we open at a medieval castle. We know it is such because it has parapets and a drawbridge and several hundred extras from the local chapter of The Society for Creative Anachronism milling around pretending to hold siege.
Inside Hrothgar (Oliver Cotton) and his band of merry men... wait.... that’s a different movie. His group o’ armor clad soldiers (of which there are all of three) prepare to engage the computer generated and wholly unexciting monster Grendel.
Grendel refuses to fight Hrothgar, which no doubt dents Hrothgar’s self esteem somewhat. And, before you can scream “Holy shit I am wearing a red shirt and beaming down to an unknown and possibly hostile planet from the Transporter Room of the Starship Enterprise!” Grendel kills the three knights accompanying Hrothgar into battle.
Cut to early morning or early evening or something... Anyway, everyone is asleep. A girl dressed in medieval finery escapes the castle and tries to sneak through the renaissance faire taking place outside. She is captured though, and because she is a witch (or so the lines lifted directly from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, only delivered without any humor at all, inform us) they are going to execute her. “How are they going to perform the execution?” you ask. Well, see they have this six foot tall straight razor (with guard and everything!) mounted on a table.
Before they can administer the first stroke Beowulf (Christopher Lambert) arrives on the scene. He is decked out in the finest post-apocalyptic finery with a shock of white hair that makes him look almost as menacing as Leslie Nielsen in “The Naked Gun” movies. Beowulf recommens that they take the girl off the Gillette-o-tene before he opens a can of serious whoopass on them, but, as in all movies where fight scenes are prepared with more care than script pages, the leader of the renaissance faire, tells Beowulf to go fly a kite.
So we get the the first of several ridiculous fights where Beowulf leaps around like a rhesus monkey on too much Ritalin indiscriminately killing anyone who gets in his way.
Oh, and all the fight scenes are accompanied by early 90s techno music.
Beowulf rescues the girl and in the action movie tradition of having someone who wields a particularly weird of powerful weapon killed by said weapon we get the executioner having his hand cut off by the giant Remington Maxi-Scream.
Oh, and he doesn’t bleed. I guess the budget for Karo syrup and food coloring was spent in the toiletries aisle.
On the way to the castle now that the renaissance faire is too bored to pursue the girl leaps from Beowulf’s horse and runs back to the gang that just tried to execute her. This time they succeed so Beowulf just goes to the castle alone.
Well, glad we wasted all that time now aren’t we! Actually, I think it was meant to show that she preferred death by Dungeons and Dragons player to death by CGI monster, but what do I know.
Once inside Beowulf meets the rest of the merry men trapped in the castle. They are: Roland (Grotz Otto), Weaponmaster (Charles Robinson: He played Mac on the old sitcom Night Court) Will (Brent Jefferson Lowe) Weaponmaster’s assistant/apprentice, (Kyra (Rhona Mitra) Hrothgar’s daughter and Pendra (Patricia Velazquez) the ONLY OTHER WOMAN IN THE CASTLE.
It takes all of one minute for Roland and Beowulf to get on each other’s nerves as both men vie for Kyra’s attention. Kyra, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to join her Dad in battle against the monster. Hrothgar is still stunned by his inability to fight with the creature, and Roland is pissed that virtually everyone who might fight the thing has about as much chance of surviving the encounter as I do in renting Mariah Carey’s Glitter.
Apparently Grendel lives where ever he wants to in the castle and this, for some reason does not seem to put any fear into the soldiers or Beowulf or anyone else. We get several sequences when everyone is asleep in the great hall and no one seems to have guard duty.
Strangely no one dies during these slumbers. It is usually when (like in any slasher movie) someone goes off for a pee, or to get some actual work done like Weaponmaster, that Grendel strikes.
During the sleep sequences we are treated to “Crimped Hair Diety Chick” who sleep-humps Hrothgar. Hrothgar gets visions not only of Crimped Hair Diety Chick but also of Crimped Hair Diety Chick and his own dead wife. There are suggested lesbian overtones but none of them materialize into anything worth watching.
Also, like all no-budget martial arts post apocalyptic castle bound reinterpretations of Old English poems, all the dead people are filmed in “Vader Vision” which is foggy and blurry like Luke’s Dad at the end of Return of the Jedi.
As the movie progresses we get to see Roland training the last three or four of his soldiers. He does this by beating them mercilessly in a mock battle. His justification is that when they finally face Grendel they have to be in tip-top form.
However, beating them black and blue, or covering them with lacerations probably isn’t the best way to put them into tip-top form. But hey, I didn’ t write this adaptation so who am I to complain?
Anyway, Weaponmaster, being the older of only two black characters is killed by Grendel. This leaves the weapons making and maintenance duties in the hands of his assistant Will who is about as charismatic as Emmanuel Lewis on a crack fueled pillage of the local zoo.
He befriends Beowulf immediately, whic h pretty much marks him for death within the next hour should this film follow the path upon which it appears to be.
Will is sent off to sharpen and clean the weapons used to fight Grendel and following a short game of “you do this over here while I do that over there, now reverse” his escort, a burly nameless soldier is killed by the monster in the weapons shop.
Will is unphased by this development.
Okay, since I’ve spent far more time on this tripe than it’s worth, let’s sum up and glance over the major plot points.
Beowulf injures Grendel and is in turn injured by him. Beowulf heals very quickly. See, he’s half God. Hrothgar and the Crimped Hair Goddess of Beauty Salon’s had a kid together, only Hrothgar only remember impregnating his wife, who is now dead. This leads to the Diagnosis Murder like revelation that Grendel is actually Hrothgar’s son whose mother is in fact the Crimped Hair Goddess of Pantene Pro-V Conditioner.
She’s started having relations with Roland too, but he gets killed before any progeny can appear and kill several of the supporting cast members.
Beowulf hacks of Grendel’s hand and shows it to the renaissance fair still carousing outside the castle walls. Seeing the monster’s hand they depart.
In true 6th century AD Deus Ex Machina fashion Grendel’s Mother explains all of this just before transforming into a big computer generated spider monster thing.... er.... with crimped hair. This forces Beowulf into battle again and he kills her after scaling the interior wall with the help of extremely obvious wires while the theme to Mortal Kombat (sans lyrics) plays in the background.
There are endless stretches of pitiful dialogue in the movie broken up the by occasional techno-scored fight sequence and that really is all that this movie has.
For all intents and purposes the world would be a better place if aspiring screenwriters left classic pieces of literature alone altogether, or at the very least, treat them with the dignity they deserve. Beowulf is an example of the worst treatment a classic lit work can get. Moved not only to modern times, but far into the future which is almost exactly like 6th century AD England save for silk lingerie (of which there is plenty on Pendra and the Crimped Hair Goddess of Supercuts) and leather bustiers (that Kyra ALWAYS wears). Doing this is an excuse to remove the Old English part of the work and let the general story stand. While this may seem beneficial to the film makers, what makes Beowulf, and other classic lit pieces from English Lit History so appealing is that difference in language.
Consider someone taking “The Canterbury Tales” and presenting it in Ebonics, or Christopher Marlow’s Valpone in Pig Latin, or even some of Shakespeare’s better works and putting the language as well as the setting in the far future.
Actually, this has worked exactly once, with Forbidden Planet but that’s for another review at another time.
This DVD may or may not contain extras. I didn’t look, in fact, given the choice I wouldn’t have even looked at the movie contained on the little silver disk.
It’s presented in widescreen format and I’ve heard rumors that this may have actually had a theatrical run back in 1999, but I can’t be certain. It certainly didn’t play in New Hampshire, but then, we’re somewhat civilized.
I rented this crap on 2 for $.99 night at my local video store, and for all of the $.495 cents I paid I received approximately $.001 worth of enjoyment.