Skip to main content

REVIEW: 'Beowulf' (S1E1) : The Original Fantasy Epic Gets an Underwhelming TV Adaptation


★★★☆☆ (3/5)

Long before 'Game of Thrones' and 'Lord of the Rings', Beowulf was the source for swords, monsters, and dragons. The epic poem, the oldest of its kind in Old English, followed the titular Scandinavian hero as he protected everyone from the beasts that lurked the countryside. You could say this is the origin story for every fantasy story you ever heard of. 

The ITV production comes to the States by way of the fledgling Esquire Network as their second scripted series. The show demonstrates their fantasy bonafides straight from the beginning. We witness a young Beowulf and his father running from a pair of monsters on a beach. It leads to his father's death and the boy avenges him in a cool sequence. The CGI work is average but it delivers a world building moment and introduces Beowulf's soon to be adoptive father in the Thane of Herot, Hrothgar (William Hurt).

We are then thrust into the familial drama that accompanies stories of royal families. Even as a child Hrothgar's son Slean (Ed Speleers) isn't too happy with his new brother, jealous and resentful lashes out but is no match for the child phenom Beowulf. Hrothgar's wife Rheda (Joanne Whalley) doesn't like the favoritism he shows to Beowulf either despite it being clear Slean doesn't have the temperament or smarts to someday become king. 

That comes to bare when after being banished from the kingdom, Beowulf (Kieran Bew who distractingly resembles a young Billy Ray Cyrus) returns years later to the Shieldlands and Herot to reconcile with Hrothgar who's on his deathbed. Alas, he's too late and Rheda has taken over as ruler of the kingdom making Slean a pouty slick-haired sourpuss. Seeing Beowulf ruffles his feathers even more. 

In order to flesh out the story, creators James Dormer, Tim Haines, and Katie Newman turn to familiar adventure tropes to make it all relatable and fill in the poem's blanks. Beowulf arrives with his buddy Breca (Gísli Orn Garoarsson), who's the quippy lothario sidekick, and are soon on the trail of Grendel to save the damsel in distress and town healer Elvine (Lauren Donnelly). Who also happens to be Slean's love interest but the arrival of Beowulf has caught her attention setting up a potential love triangle. Slean also believes he should be king and he could be conspiring against his mother to gain the crown. A lot of soapy plotlines to chew on as the season moves forward. 

There are plenty of positives in 'Beowulf' that make it different to what's available in the swashbuckling sword fantasy genre. Unlike, 'Thrones' and History Channel's 'Vikings,' the sex and violence are toned down to be more family-friendly by comparison. There's no gore or explicit sexy time. The monsters or "Mud-borns" are frightening but not overly grotesque. The show's been designed to be more accessible to audiences who like their 'Downton Abbey' with an occasional cat-bear-hybrid monster thrown in. Lolita Chakrabarti, who plays the feisty blacksmith, has an independent spirit that feels refreshing. Donnelly's Elvine is smart and confident. 

Unfortunately, it doesn't feel like enough to stand out among those other shows. The CGI is just okay, the storylines are a bit clichéd, Bew doesn't exhibit enough charm or nuance yet, the fight choreography is underwhelming and it plays out by the numbers. 'Beowulf' lacks the passion and ambition to become the PG-rated 'Game of Thrones' it's trying so desperately to be. I'll stick with it, for now, to see if the material elevates with future episodes. 

 Beowulf premieres January 23 10|9c on Esquire Network.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

DC Comics March Movie Poster Variant Covers are Fantastic

DC Comics may have outdone themselves with their running themed variant covers for the month of March 2015. After some fun and gorgeous variants in 2014 like Darwin Cooke (December), LEGO (November), and Bombshells (June) to name a few DC Comics is continuing to bring some creative covers in 2015. January will feature Flash throughout the company line in celebration of his 75th Anniversary, February will bring everyone’s favorite wild card, Harley Quinn, on DC covers, and perhaps the best mash-ups of comics and famous movie posters will arrive in March.

WONDER WOMAN OF THE DAY: Fitness Model Gia Macool Embodies the Amazon Princess

The closest we'll ever get, probably, to superheroes in real life is through the great work of cosplayers. You see them at every pop culture convention from the very basic to extremely elaborate costume design. However, you don't have to be a cosplayer to enjoy dressing up as your favorite superhero from time to time. Take fitness model and entrepreneur Gia Macool for example. An accomplished fitness competitor and model, Macool is also a big fan of DC Comics' Wonder Woman. She shows her love of the iconic Amazon Princess in her fitness wear, meal prep accessories and even a full blown photo shoot in a Wonder Woman costume. 

For decades comics have featured very muscular superheroes, male and female, epitomizing the human form at its strongest. So when bodybuilders and fitness pros decide to suit up as these costumed heroes, they are the embodiment of those fictional characters in the flesh. Macool looks like she stepped out of the pages of a Wonder Woman comic with a suit …

Chuck Palahniuk and Cameron Stewart Return for FIGHT CLUB 3

FIGHT CLUB 3 asks, “What's the first rule of fatherhood?”


Bestselling novelist Chuck Palahniuk, Eisner Award-winning artist Cameron Stewart, letterer Nate Piekos of Blambot, colorist Dave McCaig and acclaimed cover artist David Mack will collaborate on the follow-up to the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling graphic novel FIGHT CLUB 2. In the 12 part monthly comic book maxi-series FIGHT CLUB 3, Marla Singer is about to deliver her second child, but the daddy isn’t her husband—it's Tyler Durden, who’s very invested in his heir, and the world he’ll inherit.


Marla, her first son, and her husband—the unnamed narrator in the novel, who now goes by Balthazar—live in a run-down motel in a sketchy neighborhood. In the FIGHT CLUB 2 graphic novel Tyler transformed Project Mayhem into Rize or Die. Now, a new group has implemented a ruthless and deviant plan to fine-tune mankind, leading Balthazar to forge an unlikely alliance … with Tyler Durden.


“FIGHT CLUB 3 is about what happens when you need …

REVIEW: 'Death or Glory' #2 by Rick Remender and Bengal

After a raucous debut, 'Death and Glory' takes a weird turn. Like a really weird turn. Imagine David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino had a baby and out came out issue two of this new series from Rick Remender and Bengal. The question is is that a good or bad thing?


DEATH OR GLORY #2  
Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Bengal Publisher: Image Comics Release Date: June 6, 2018 Cover Price: $3.99
Score: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
With a botched heist job, a bullet in her side, and all her money gone, Glory wrestles with what to do next. The cargo her ex-husband was trafficking wasn't drugs but people and after putting them all safely on a bus to Arizona, she's broke and being attended to by one of the Brazilians that stayed behind. Her scheme was pretty straight-forward - rob the money that the dirty sheriff was going to transport and use it for her dad's surgery. Easy peasy. Then it all went to hell as the sheriff recognized her, she dropped the money, and now no one is happy, not the sheri…

The Feminist Vigilantes of MTV's 'Sweet/Vicious' Come to Comics at Black Mask Studios

Women Vigilantes Get Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors In Upcoming Comic Book That Continues The Edgy MTV Series


Premiering one-week after the 2016 Presidential Election, SWEET/VICIOUS was one of the first new TV shows of the Trump Era: an edgy and provocative tale of two young women becoming vigilantes to combat sexual assaults on their college campus. As grimly relevant today as it was two years ago, SWEET/VICIOUS will continue the story of feminist vigilantes Jules and Ophelia with a comic book series written by show-creator Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, coming in 2019 from Black Mask Studios. 

The SWEET/VICIOUS comic will be a continuation of the story started in season one of the series. After Jules was raped and her University did nothing to help her, she takes matters into her own hands becoming a vigilante who seeks justice for survivors of sexual assault and other abuse at her school. When the campus weed dealer and all-around troublemaker Ophelia Mayer finds out about Jules&#…