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 (Hrothgar has an affair with Grendel's mother, and they have a child together, Grendel; Hrothgar's wife commits suicide).
The setting is a post-industrial castle that defends the border of an unnamed kingdom. It is terrorized by a demon named Grendel, who kills the castle's defenders, one by one. After fighting his way past several soldiers trying to keep anyone from entering or leaving, the warrior Beowulf offers his help to the castle's king, Hrothgar, who welcomes his help.
Hrothgar has a daughter named Kyra, who is loved by Roland, the castle's strongest soldier, but she does not return his affections. It is revealed that Hrothgar's wife (and Kyra's 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 castle's 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 Grendel's 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 Grendel's 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. Grendel's mother appears and attempts to seduce Beowulf as she had done Hrothgar. Beowulf sets the castle on fire, which completely consumes the building as he escapes with Kyra.Christopher Lambert as Beowulf
Rhona Mitra as Kyra
Oliver Cotton as Hrothgar
Götz Otto as Roland
Vincent Hammond as Grendel
Charlie Robinson as Weaponsmaster
Brent Jefferson Lowe as Will
Roger Sloman as Karl
Layla Roberts as Grendel's mother
Patricia Velásquez as Pendra
The production was filmed in Romania. The movie's end credits says: "Filmed on location in Romania".
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. Danél Griffin of Film as Art said the film "understands that liberties must be taken with the poem's 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 Hollywood's review said that "genre films don't get any sillier than this", but called the film "above average". The review praised the film's "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 film's action scenes but felt that Lambert and Mitra had no chemistry.
Nathan Shumate of Cold Fusion Video Reviews also praised the film's 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, "That's not to say that there are no effective scenes to be had, [but they] certainly can’t carry the full 90-minute running time". Perhaps it's 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 attempt's mediocrity.
The film's soundtrack mainly featured electronic and industrial songs from various artists and original score material by Juno Reactor's Ben Watkins.
Despite the many songs used in the film, a soundtrack CD was never issued.Jonathan Sloate - Beowulf
Front 242 - Religion (Bass under siege mix by The Prodigy)
Pig - No One Gets out of Her Alive, Jump the Gun (Instrumental)
Gravity Kills - Guilty (Juno Reactor remix)
Juno Reactor - God is God
Fear Factory - Cyberdyne
Laughing US - Universe
KMFDM - Witness
Lunatic Calm - The Sound
Junkie XL - Def Beat
Urban Voodoo - Ego Box
2wo - Stutter Kiss
Spirit Feel - Unfolding Towards the Light
Mindfeel - Cranium Heads Out
Frontside - Dammerung
Praga Khan - Luv u Still
Anthrax - Giving the Horns
Monster Magnet - Lord 13