Old English epic poem Beowulf is set to receive a small screen adaptation for a change, to air at some indeterminate future point on SyFy, with Matt Greenberg (1408; REIGN OF FIRE; HALLOWEEN H20) being hired to exec produce and write the script.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the tale, it tells of the exploits of the eponymous Geatish hero who comes to the aid of the Danish king Hrothgar, whose great hall is constantly attacked by the monster Grendel. First recounted is the battle with Grendel, then with Grendel’s mother who comes seeking vengeance, and finally some fifty years later when Beowulf is the Geatish king he faces a dragon angered when a golden cup is stolen from its hoard.
How much of the poem’s content will be utilised has yet to be mentioned (most retellings end at the death of Grendel’s mother) or if the series will be a one-shot effort or an ongoing saga. The chronological gap between Grendel’s mother and the dragon could provide for some interesting speculation, as well as alternative interpretations that perceive Beowulf as a self-aggrandising alpha male or Grendel as a tragic victim, such as in Neil Gaiman’s prose poem Bay Wolf, where the monster Grand Al was ultimately described as “a neighbour... wanted you to keep the noise down.”
This isn’t the first time SyFy has adapted the poem. In 2007 it came out with Grendel, one of its interminable parade of CGI monster movies, the resulting quality of which was much in line with what we’ve come to expect of such a pedigree. Other adaptations include the mocapped version scripted by Neil Gaiman, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Ray Winstone, a clunky-dialogued Icelandic drama starring Gerard Butler (“Don’t sour my heart with talk about why a troll does what a fucking troll does!”), and a mental post-apocalyptic sci-fi starring an acrobatic Christopher Lambert wielding a semiautomatic crossbow. Interestingly, despite vastly different plots and events, the one consistency throughout these three is that Beowulf mortally wounds Grendel by ripping off his arm.
Following the news of SyFy’s adaptation of 12 MONKEYS, as well as other announced shows like DOMINION (a sequel series to god-awful angel apocalypse movie Legion), Bryan Fuller’s space western HIGH MOON and Jamie Foxx’s as-yet-untitled horror anthology series, it looks as though the channel is slowly gearing away from clogging its schedules with vacuous reality TV and wresting and moving back towards producing the scripted TV shows that have generally been its strength. Although it still has a stupid name.
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