Beowulf

Watch where you leave your sperm.
★★★
☆☆☆
Released: 
2007
Director: 
Robert Zemekis
Starring: 
Ray Winstone, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright Penn
The Setup: 
Kings and warriors and dragons and deadbeat dads.
Discussion: 

So my friend with the Ph.D. in Renaissance English Literature was DYING to see this, and his boyfriend loves 3-D, and their friend the screenwriter was in town, and I will of course go see anything that’s in 3-D, especially if it’s going to be flagrantly, grandly terrible, and so off we go!

We open with these titles that look super in 3-D, and find out that it’s Norway 507. The King, Anthony Hopkins [oh God, Anthony Hopkins, not again] is drunk and wearing a cloth that threatens to expose his nakedness [please no] and his wife, played by a digital approximation of Robin Wright Penn, who does nothing from beginning to end except glare disapprovingly and cast disdainful glances. Everyone’s having a grand old time except Grendel, the really gross monster with the super-sensitive ears, who can hear the din despite being several miles away inside a huge mountain cavern. So he comes on down and attacks the congregation, throwing everything he can right at the camera to maximize the 3-D effect. By the way, there’s really no reason to watch this movie if it’s not in 3-D, a feeling the filmmakers apparently share, as the entire thing is constructed so as many things poke out into the audience as possible.

By the way, please don’t miss the moment of suspense when the monster’s drool almost drips all over the Queen. This is but the first notice of all the body-fluid excitement we have in store. Anyway, the King promises half his gold to whoever can slay the beast. John Malkovich, whose every glance brings snickers of “Heh, heh, John Malkovich,” is on hand to lend his insinuating sneer. Someone asks the King if they should also pray to the new God, Jesus, but he says no. By the end, Malkovich will be a priest.

Then Beowulf shows up, proudly declaring that he is a Geek. Geek pride, Beowulf! [He's a Geat, actually.] Malkovich sneeringly tells him that “Many men have come to drink the King’s mead,” which made my whole audience laugh—the homo stuff being THAT on the surface. Beowulf says he’ll slay the monster because of his chiseled abs, and we have to flash back to a sea monster attack. After all, it HAS been about five minutes since some sort of monster attacked. This one is gory, with Beowulf going in one monster’s mouth and coming out through its eyeball.

Okay, so on to this film’s considerable sexual content. Beowulf is told that he can marry the Queen if he kills the monster. She purses her lips disapprovingly, but that’s no different from any other moment. Beowulf then exposes himself to her. He has this whole thing about laying around the mead-hall naked, the camera giving his nude body several loving 3-D close-ups. There is, however, always some sword or arm or goblet in the way of his goodies, exactly like the same scenes in Austin Powers or The Simpsons Movie. This continues through the next monster attack, where Beowulf fights the thing in the nude [all his courage is INSIDE!], but it’s so outright SILLY and evocative of Austin Powers that I thought it was a mistake to try to pull during a serious scene. Finally Beowulf chops off the thing’s arm [the severed arm appears to be giving him the finger], and it limps home to die.

SPOILERS > > >
So we find out that the Queen is all miffed because the King slept with some really nasty skank, and she don’t want that thing in her when it’s already been up THAT lady, and you think “What a minute! So the monster is the King’s SON!” and this turns out to be true. Meanwhile, everyone just thinks Beowulf is the bomb, including three women who admire the strength in his legs: “All three of them.” I’m sorry, have I wandered into the softcore version of this film by mistake? But that night Beowulf has a dream that the Queen comes to him wanting a son, and the next morning everyone in the mead hall is dead, except him. It was the creature’s mother! She’s PISSED!

So Beowulf goes to visit her with his spectrally-glowing horn, and finds that she looks a lot like a naked Angelina Jolie. She even has—GET THIS—built-in six inch heels! They’re just part of her anatomy! One hardly has time to wonder what Gloria Steinem would have to say about that before she’s gripping Beowulf’s sword and turning it to jelly, resulting in a shot of fluid from his sword’s hilt dripping all down her leg. Okay, I am clearly in Bukkake Beowulf, as there’s no way this stuff is in a PG-13 movie!

So we get an indication that Beowulf worked his three-legged magic, and he leaves his special glow-in-the-dark horn there for her to keep. He comes back and tells everyone he killed her, but the King knows better. He tells Beowulf to watch out for that tricky lady, transfers the kinghood to him, and jumps off the tower! Beowulf is now King!

Okay, so then it’s like 40 years later. Beowulf is all grey and has tiny hairs on his nose, but still clearly maintains a comprehensive workout regimen. The Queen must have some serious Olde-Tyme Oil of Olay, because although her hair is gray, her face shows barely a wrinkle. But then again, in the world of this movie, really hot women have built-in six-inch heels [why not built-in bustiers?] and a woman has absolutely no value—cannot even appear on screen—if she’s going to get old and wrinkly. You know, like a human being. Regardless, the Queen’s sour demeanor has not changed.

Anyway, one day some dude shows up with the glow-in-the-dark horn, which means that the truce is off. Beowulf goes to see his lovely lady of the cave and finds that his son is all grown up, a huge fire-breathing dragon. You’ll note that Hopkin’s son is a gross, decaying-looking mutant, while Beowulf’s son is an awesome, powerful dragon. It’s all in the sperm, ladies! Your mama TOLD you you’d better shop around.

So it’s time for the big fight with the dragon. He comes a’swoopin’ down and seems to be fixated on killing the Queen and the King’s young mistress [and, for all the Queen’s bitchy demeanor, she does she pretty hip to the King having a mistress in plain day]. The two women bond while under threat of annihilation, but it doesn’t stop the mistress from a little “oopsie” moment when she drops the Queen to her doom. Except some guy saves her. Then there’s this whole thing where Beowulf has to swing to reach his hand into this ovular opening and pull out the heart of the beast. He is, metaphorically, reaching into the womb and pulling out his own sperm, undoing his own progeny. Anyway, they both fall, another guy becomes King, and Angelina sets her eyes on him. The end!
< < < SPOILERS END

Well, what to make of it? For long sections I was sitting there thinking “God, this is SO vulgar,” with all the metaphorical gloop and talk of men with three legs and nudity and misplaced genetic material. But I guess it had an idea: deadbeat dads of the middle ages, and the whole concept that the curse fallen on this village is of the King’s infidelity, man’s lust, etc. So they did at least attempt to give it a mythic resonance and shape. It was too sexual and too violent for a PG-13 movie whose audience will be mostly kids, but hey, you know, the modern world.

I can’t imagine feminists would be too happy about this movie—if anyone cared about such things anymore. It’s the old separation of women into a) hot babes with built-in stilettos that want horny sex but will bear you a demon child that will plague your village, or b) beautiful but chilly women who are steadfast and faithful but do not ever, ever, ever, EVER, EVER want to have sex. What’s it gonna be, fellas? The real insult is that the Queen does not age, i.e., even though she is set up as the admirable character with moral fiber, hello, she can NOT get ugly! She can NOT age! Because like, eww! What if she like, had wrinkles and stuff? And of course a whole essay could be written on Angelina’s built-in heels and its implicit statement that Victoria’s Secret-type “sexiness” IS what is attractive in women—even in 507! Ah yes, harmless children’s entertainment.

Nevertheless, it could be worse as something to do on a Saturday afternoon. Again, don’t even bother if you’re not going to see it in 3-D, and, well, I guess we’ve mentioned everything.

Should you watch it: 

If it sounds appealing. I would highly recommend drinks and the enhancements of your choice, as well as a few friends that you can snicker with.