ⓘ Beowulf (1999 film)

Beowulf (1999 film)

ⓘ Beowulf (1999 film)

Beowulf is a 1999 American science fantasy-action film loosely based on the Old English epic poem Beowulf. The film was directed by Graham Baker and written by Mark Leahy and David Chappe, and comes from the same producer as Mortal Kombat, which also starred Lambert.

Unlike most film adaptations of the poem, this version is a science-fiction/fantasy film that, according to one film critic, "takes place in a post-apocalyptic, techno-feudal future that owes more to Mad Max than Beowulf. While the film remains fairly true to the story of the original poem, other plot elements deviate from the original poem.


1. Plot

The setting is a post-industrial castle that defends the border of an unnamed kingdom. It is terrorized by a creature named Grendel, who kills the castles defenders, one by one. The stronghold is also besieged by a band of warriors who are attempting to quarantine it. After fighting his way past the besiegers, the warrior Beowulf offers his help to the castles "border lord", Hrothgar, who welcomes his help.

Hrothgar has a daughter named Kyra, who is loved by Roland, the castles strongest soldier, but she does not return his affections. It is revealed that Hrothgars wife and Kyras mother committed suicide when she found out Hrothgar had an affair. The woman he had an affair with was actually an ancient being who had originally lived on the castles lands. The affair resulted in an offspring, Grendel.

Beowulf and Grendel fight, wounding each other. Later, after recovering, they fight again and this time Beowulf rips Grendels arm off with a retracting cestus. That night the castle celebrates as they believe Grendel is dead. Kyra declares her love for Beowulf and he returns her affection. Kyra tells him that she killed her previous husband after he abused her. Beowulf tells her that his mother is human and his father is Baal, "God of darkness, Lord of lies". This explains his tremendous fighting prowess.

While Kyra is with Beowulf, everyone else in the castle is killed by Grendels mother. Grendel kills Hrothgar, after the truth of his heritage is revealed. Beowulf attacks and kills Grendel by stabbing him through the stump where his arm once was. Grendels mother appears and attempts to seduce Beowulf as she had done Hrothgar. Beowulf sets the castle on fire, which kills Grendels mother and completely consumes the building as he escapes with Kyra.


2. Cast

  • Gotz Otto as Roland
  • Christopher Lambert as Beowulf
  • Oliver Cotton as Hrothgar
  • Patricia Velasquez as Pendra
  • Charlie Robinson as Weaponsmaster
  • Rhona Mitra as Kyra
  • Brent Jefferson Lowe as Will
  • Vincent Hammond as Grendel
  • Layla Roberts as Grendels mother
  • Roger Sloman as Karl

3. Themes

As with other Beowulf adaptations, the film reinterprets the poem, blending its original genre with "tropes from horror and soft pornography," but it also retains and expands on its original elements.

The film addresses the poems plot point of Beowulf not having a wife or an heir, as it reveals Beowulf to be the same kind of creature the monsters themselves, making him refraining from wanting to produce offspring. The poems emphasis on genealogy is represented by humans and monsters mating among them, with Grendel being the son of Hrothgar and Beowulf being the result of a god of darkness inseminating a woman. Beowulf and Grendel are shown as mirror images of each other, as the former harbors an internal struggle to contain his monstrous nature, while the latter was conceived by her mother as a revenge of an external oppression.

Grendels mother is portrayed as a representation of monstrous female sexuality. She operates as a seductive succubus, giving birth to monsters, but can also shapeshift into a monster herself. This form resembles a dragon, an arachnid and a gorgon, not only evoking the Freudian Medusas Head, but also evoking the archaic mother by resembling a vagina dentata with phallic talons. She also sexually attacks Hrothgar, inverting the trope of horror film monsters chasing after female leads.


4. Reception

Critical reaction to the film has been highly negative. The general criticisms for the film were the weak script, below-average acting, corny dialogue, deviations from the source material, and over-reliance on camp, although it was hailed for its production design. Danel Griffin of Film as Art said the film "understands that liberties must be taken with the poems characters to create a more cinematic experience, and there are moments that, even in its liberties, it reveals a deep appreciation for the poem, and a profound understanding of its ideas. There are other moments, however, that seem so absurd and outlandish that we wonder if the writers, Mark Leahy and David Chappe, have even read the poem." Griffin added that "Lambert is certainly effective", but concluded that "clever ideas aside, the film is unfortunately mediocre at best. The set design and some of the revised storyline are both stupendous, but the overall experience makes for poor cinema."

Beyond Hollywoods review said that "genre films dont get any sillier than this", but called the film "above average". The review praised the films "energetic action" and said that it "excels in set design", but added that "the techno music is pretty annoying." Calling the film "a cheesy post-apocalyptic update of the ancient tale", Carlo Cavagna of About Film praised the films action scenes but felt that Lambert and Mitra had no chemistry.

Nathan Shumate of Cold Fusion Video Reviews also praised the films action scenes, but felt it used all its good ideas in the first half, "leaving most of the rest of the movie to die of attrition." Shumate added, "Thats not to say that there are no effective scenes to be had, certainly can’t carry the full 90-minute running time. Perhaps its truly impossible to come up with a definitive film version of this epic. But I wouldn’t want to make a judgement on that simply due to this attempts mediocrity."


5. Soundtrack

The films soundtrack mainly featured electronic and industrial songs from various artists and original score material by Juno Reactors Ben Watkins.

Despite the many songs used in the film, a soundtrack CD was never issued.

  • 2wo - Stutter Kiss
  • Urban Voodoo - Ego Box
  • Anthrax - Giving the Horns
  • Praga Khan - Luv u Still
  • Gravity Kills - Guilty Juno Reactor remix
  • Monster Magnet - Lord 13
  • Juno Reactor - God is God
  • Junkie XL - Def Beat
  • Jonathan Sloate - Beowulf
  • Mindfeel - Cranium Heads Out
  • Fear Factory - Cyberdyne
  • Front 242 - Religion Bass under siege mix by The Prodigy
  • Laughing US - Universe
  • Spirit Feel - Unfolding Towards the Light
  • Lunatic Calm - The Sound
  • KMFDM - Witness
  • Frontside - Dammerung
  • Pig - No One Gets out of Her Alive, Jump the Gun Instrumental
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  • This film - related list is incomplete you can help by expanding it. A list of American films released in 1999 American Beauty won the Academy Award for