Last night I was watching Outlander (yes, I really was; yes, it was deeply mediocre; no, Jim Caviezel does not smile) and wondered what it is about these pseudo Beowulf films that’s been so popular with studios lately. They cost a fair amount to make; they don’t make that money back at the box office (and the DVD market isn’t nearly what it was) and they certainly don’t earn kudos.
So there I was, after a fabulous summer dinner* watching John Hurt, Ron Perlman, Jim Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston and others running around in bearskins and beard pigtails, waving swords, holding aloft the hissing torches, taking turns to creep into the cave or the woods and die heroically. And it suddenly came to me: Hollywood execs greenlight these films because the old guys get to carry swords, kill monsters, and be king. Those execs in their bespoke suits and handmade shoes, with their sixth trophy wife already plotting divorce under punitive California law, sit and dream of How It Used To Be, Goddammit: when men their age were respected, and strong, and wise, and useful. And so they okay the film, and live vicariously on the edge of a fjord, striding bare-armed and pony-tailed into single combat, going out in a blaze of glory to protect their people.
And, hey, what’s wrong with that? This is a perfectly fine 2-star movie. The alien/dragon/morwen effects are, well, less than stellar, the historical authenticity somewhat dubious (I’m being kind–but it’s clear they tried) and there isn’t a single surprising moment. But for the Alien vs. Beowulf genre, it really doesn’t suck. Certainly worth getting from Netflix.
* That dinner? Homemade salmon cakes (salmon, mashed potato, fresh dill) with asparagus and homemade pilaf (brown rice, green peppers, green onions, mushrooms, courgettes, pine nuts, toasted almonds), followed by Burlatt cherries (delicious, perfect fucking cherries, bought from a roadside fruit stand) dipped one by one in organic, very local, very fresh, cream. After food like that I could sit through two hours of watching the test card, never mind a film with swords! ponies! heroism!