Science fiction and fantasy                                            


directed by Yuri Kulakov

With a run time of only 27 minutes, this animated version of Beowulf is certainly concise. It tells the story of the warrior Beowulf and his quests to rid King Hrodgar's land of the monster Grendel and his mother, and his subsequent adventures when a dragon threatens his own people.

Kulakov's Beowulf is clearly an attempt to tell this story as straight as possible, without embellishing on the original poem. Beowulf (with the voice of Joseph Fiennes) is depicted as a brave warrior, motivated by honour and duty. He goes to Hrodgar's aid because Hrodgar once saved his father, rather than for anything so venal as the promise of rewards. There are no suggestions of any flaws in his pristine character.

The film is clearly aimed at a younger audience, and possibly at schools. It's just the facts, without any real attempt to explore the characters or to look deeply at their motivations. Nor is any effort made to add to the excitement of the story, or to introduce much suspense. If anything, the creators have tried to make it duller by the way they have handled the action. Fight scenes are very brief, and overly abstract. Beowulf is a feisty story of blood and guts, but this film manages to reduce all the action to a handful of decisive sword-slashes and some movements that look more like symbolic dance than a fight to the death. One of the reasons this movie is so short is the way all of the fighting has been curtailed.

The animation is fuzzy and indistinct, so this is not the most attractive movie. Grendel and his mother are depicted as a couple of great, hulking lumps of mobile swamp-stuff, shapeless masses of moss and slime. Forget about seeing things from their point of view, since they don't even get to speak for themselves.

Derek Jacobi narrates throughout this film, and it has the tone of a story being told to younger children at bedtime. The emphasis is always on education rather than entertainment, but the effect seems to be that all of the elements that make Beowulf interesting have been sucked out. This is a dry, unimaginative retelling full of characters with no nuance. Don't get this for your children, unless it's your intention to put them off the Beowulf story for life.

Film Details

Decade: 1990s

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

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Beowulf by Robert Zemeckis
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1 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson