The movie “Beowulf” by Robert Zemeckis was declared as the screen version of old English heroic epic poem of unknown authorship. However it was mostly the screening of playwriter Neil Gaiman’s fantasy about the life in England before Norman invasion. The plot of the poem was almost destroyed in the process of cinematizing it. The images of heroes were transformed, their motivations were reconsidered. The protagonist has love affair with the mother of his enemy. The attitude to Christianity was altered also. As the result, movie “Beofulf” characterizes the modern culture farther then the culture of England of 8th-10th centuries.
Movie and poem
In the movie Beowulf and Grendel’s mother have an love affair, which was absent in the poem. In the book Grendel’s mother was ugly lizard-like monster, she ate people and Beowulf killed the “hag.” In the movie Beowulf slept with Grendel’s mother (that is no wonder, because miss Angelina Jolie starred in this movie) and have a dragon-son with her. Probably this affair changed the main idea of the story, because Beowulf had to guard his people from monsters not give birth to them. In the poem Beowulf uses his power to protection people, to bringing peace and stability to them. This affair changed the meaning of fight Beowulf and Grendel. In the poem Beowulf wanted true fight and did not use armor and weapon against unarmed Grendel. In the movie Beofulf took all his clothing because he is a stepfather of Grendel. Such interpretation of hero, his deeds and motivation diminishes him.
Characters of main heroes were changed greatly. In the movie Beowulf is a typical egoistic Hollywood hero, which uses his power to be proud of it, to tell everybody he is true hero, and to make love with beautiful woman. Personality of Grendel was transformed, too. In the book Hrothgar is not his father, in the movie he is, as an example.
The plot of the novel was changed, too. In the movie Hrothgar killed himself and Beowulf inherited his kingdom, the land of Danes. In the poem Beowulf returned home to rule in his own land (the land of Geats). So, the poem was the story of hero who went to far away land to kill a bloodthirsty monster and rerun home as a winner. The movie is a story of hero who went to strange land, saw the suicide of the king, killed the prince, slept with his mother (and probably killed or executed her, too) and stayed to rule in this land.
Besides, Beowulf the poem refers to early Christianity in England. Perhaps I was biased, but I noticed the negative attitude to Christianity in the movie.
The main difference between the movie and the poem is a plenty of Hollywood’s cliché in the first one. The main cliché is the sexy woman, which is necessary in every blockbuster. Typical approach to a plot left nothing from English heroic epos in the movie. That is why the audience can have fun watching movie, but the movie never should be considered as the screening of the poem.