Tuesday, December 11, 2007


No -- really? Richard Corliss, I salute you.


Unknown said...

hommina hommina WHAT?!???

Elena Steier said...

Hey, Beowolf is on my top ten list, and I've never even seen it! In fact, I haven't seen any of the films on my top ten list.

C. Margery Kempe said...

The potential is powerful -- seeing them would only make you like them less.

Linda C. McCabe said...

Wow is right.

I wouldn't have put that on any top ten list unless it was movies to watch in order to critique and analyze for why the storytelling just didn't work.

Then again...maybe Corliss is captivated by Angelina Jolie dipped in gold.

BTW, the #6 ranked movie on that list is Persepolis. If you are interested, a friend of mine wrote a detailed review here on that movie:


Thanks for the "heads up."


C. Margery Kempe said...

Thanks, Linda. I must admit the thumbs up/down line fell mostly along gender lines among my students. Angelina dipped in gold seems to count for a lot.

Thanks too for the link for Persepolis. I have taught the book(s) a few times. I'm curious to see the film and how it addresses some of the problems of the original.

Cranky Yankee said...

You should see what the Chronicle of Higher Ed had to say...


I don't know if you're able to read this without registering...we get it free here at our school

C. Margery Kempe said...

We have it through LexisNexis at our college. I was struck by this comment:

The film cleverly ties Beowulf's final monster fight to the earlier episodes with Grendel and his mother (something the original fails to do).

I'm not sure why this is a "failure" of the original. If it's not part of a master narrative, it's crap? Besides, they are directly linked by being enemies of god who despoil what should be valued (community in the case of Grendel, gold in the case of the dragon).


By transforming Grendel's mother into a femme fatale seductress, they've found a way simultaneously to further demonstrate Beowulf's flaws, give the female lead more dimensionality (albeit uncharitably), and connect the denouement to the earlier story.

What he forgets to mention is how much women are devalued in the film. Beowulf's flaws can't be shown without Jolie in spike heels? She's the "female lead" (she's on screen all of maybe three minutes tops)? What "dimensionality"? She becomes a dea ex machina for Beowulf's rise to power and a sexual object, nothign more. Seems pretty flat to me.

You can tell this is someone from a philosophy background -- trying to turn everything into a single unity. It's not the only ideal for storytelling.

Cranky Yankee said...

OooOH! Are we going to see a rebuttal in the letters section of the Chronicle?

Linda C. McCabe said...

I don't have access to that article, so I'll have to base my comments on your quotes.


The more I reflect on the movie, the worse it becomes in my mind.

I don't know why it didn't hit me earlier, but there did not appear to be any conflict within Beowulf when the Dipped Golden One made her offer to him.

You did not feel that Beowulf truly wanted to avenge the death of his men. Instead it seemed like once he saw an attractive image of a woman and was offered power, glory, fame, etc. that any thoughts of doing the "honorable thing" by killing her went out of his mind.

It's as if he said, "Hey I get everything I've ever wanted *and* I get to have sex? Such a Deal. Sign me up!"

I also think that the interlude where Beowulf had the swimming contest with Breca undermined the overall story. I think by showing the mermaid and suggesting Beowulf had a liaison with her was supposed to foreshadow his seduction by Grendel's mother, but instead it worked to highlight a character flaw. As if he were such a horndog that he'd screw with anything with a pulse that was a willing partner.


Then there was the scene where Hrothgar committed suicide and Beowulf was made king and husband to Wealhtheow. There's a look that passed between Beowulf and Wealhtheow that seemed to suggest that all he could think of was, "how long do I have to wait before I get to bed my new queen?"

No horror at watching someone commit suicide, but rather "is there a period of morning I should allow for her to observe or can I do what I wanted to do to her since I first laid eyes on her?"

I know I had a very uncomfortable feeling when I saw look pass between the two characters. Then we thankfully did a fast forward to decades later so we will never know how long he waited.

I'm sorry, while I do agree with you that the roles of women (especially Wealhtheow) are abysmal in this movie, I think the amorality that the film showed for the ostensible hero of the story is a far worse an indictment for gender stereotypes.

This whole line of thought makes me feel in desperate need of a shower. I wonder how Zemeckis, Gaiman, and Avery worked day in and day out on a script that included such negative commentary about men and had no problem with it.

Oh yeah, they must have had the image of Angelina Jolie dipped in gold in their minds.


As if that sexualized image was all they needed to make up for lousy storytelling.

C. Margery Kempe said...

Linda -- I agree! The portrayals of women remain the most annoying part to me personally, but as a scholar engaged in a study of masculinity in film, I'm very interested in the failures of this film with regard to all aspects of gender.

I think the filmmakers want to have it both ways: they want to offer a critique of heroism, but they also want us to thrill to the battles. I suppose a lot of the viewers have no sense of disconnect with that, but I do and, I suspect, so do a lot of other people. It's hard to have someone shown to be a jerk, then try to get us excited about his "glorious battle." Zemeckis in particular seems to think he was soooo transgressive -- maybe he should have read Grendel.