Throughout English literature, there have been countless epics greatly admired and in one way or another, transformed into movies. Beowulf is a particularly interesting illustration of this, because there are not only a number of writers who have translated the same story, but several filmmakers who have successfully captured an audience with this great epic. This is the case with Aliens II. It had such an interesting twist to Beowulf, that while it fostered many similarities, the filmmaker faced the challenge of converting a well-known epic to fit a modern storyline while keeping it parallel enough for the audience to recognize and enjoy. Instead of doing a direct translation of Beowulf, the filmmaker used his own creativity and originality to fabricate a new twist on the epic by altering specific aspects of the book to make it thrilling for a live audience. To illustrate this for a viewing instead of a reading, the aspects include the filmmaker altering things such as the characters, setting, plot, theme, point of view, and chronological order in order to create the movie, Aliens II.
There are many parallels when you compare the characters in Beowulf to the actors in Aliens II. The most obvious comparison would be Beowulf to Sigourney Weaver's character, Ripley, in Aliens II. The filmmaker had to keep some ideas in common with Beowulf in order to be acknowledged as being derived from the epic poem, but was able to put his own twist on the character by changing some specifics to make it more enjoyable as a movie. Ripley, a woman hero somewhat differs from Beowulf, a man who slays people with a bare hands and a sword.
In retrospect, they also share some of the same characteristics, such as their obligation to fight evil, determination, and loyalty to their people. Beowulf is portrayed as a loyal warrior who had a great amount of motivation and determination. One example is illustrated in the quote from Beowulf, "Sorrow not, wise warrior. It is better for each to avenge his friend than greatly to mourn." (Beowulf, 25) Ripley's character follows closely along the same personality and attitudes. She is loyal in protecting earth, and is determined to destroy the aliens once and for all. Her efforts throughout this second section of her war with the aliens are motivated by a promise she makes to a rescued little girl and is determined to finally end the creatures.
This is almost identical to a comment Beowulf makes, promising that Grendel will have no protection any where she goes. The quote above is a good example of how changing specifics comes into play. Had the film maker kept this direct quote, it would not have fit into the movie or Ripley's character and made the movie less enjoyable. Instead, the filmmaker had to put a creative twist on it and use Ripley and the other characters to give off the same message of toughness by Ripley overcoming all obstacles without stopping to mourn. Grendel and his mother are both combined to exist as the mother alien at the end of Aliens II. They are both very protective and willing to fight and die for their children.
They also share the same kind of dwelling, deep in the earth / planet , tucked away from civilization as to protect and shield themselves from the hero. They too, were very determined characters. For viewing purposes, some things had to change in the movie that were not directly from the book. It made sense that the mother alien was created and placed at the end of the movie because it would have not fit in with the movie storyline for there to be two mothers at the beginning of the movie. The way Aliens II was written, one huge mother figure at the end of the movie made more of an impact as well as flowed a lot more nicely than it would have had the filmmaker followed the Beowulf storyline. Grendel would stop at nothing to defend himself.
"Then from the moor under the misty cliffs came Grendel, he bore God's anger. The foul foe purposed to trap with cunning one of the men in the high hall... ." (Beowulf, 13) Both mother figures had loyal warriors on their side. Grendel protected his mother, then after his death, his mother defended him until she was defeated. The twist in Aliens II was that the filmmaker added many alien warriors that continuously attacked Ripley and her crew while trying to get to the mother alien. They were all willing to die in honor and protection of family.
This twist was added to Aliens II to add impact at the end of the movie and to put a twist on the story that the book could not illustrate, and would not have fit the book storyline. The setting is the most evident change that had to be made in converting the epic to an enjoyable film. In Beowulf, most of the scenes took place at an island off of Denmark. Going from Denmark to another planet was a huge step the filmmaker had to make.
He had to construct the setting in such a way that we were still able to relate the movie to a completely different planet. He did this well, and with much creativity. His illustration of the deep, dark cave that the mother-monster lived in was a well illustrated example. Like Beowulf, Ripley had to track the mother-monster by descending into her dark, forbidding lair.
Both contained gruesome depictions of a lair-type cave but contrasting the two is simple. Grendel's lair was under water, which made it difficult for Beowulf to access, and the mother alien's was deep in an old reactor where she was laying thousands of eggs to protect her. Even though the physical location of the battle in Aliens II had to be extremely altered, both stories conveyed the same message, but the filmmaker put a creative twist on the dark cave-like home of the mother-monster. The plot is contains the greatest number of examples of creativity and originality created by the filmmaker. In the beginning of Beowulf, Grendel attacked the Mead-Hall because of revenge and resentment. At night Beowulf and his men would stay up late laughing, drinking; dancing and celebrating.
This nightly event brewed anger and spawned revenge in the banished Grendel. "Full often did warriors drunken with beer boast over the ale-cup that they would await Grendel's attack with dread blades in the beer-hall." (Beowulf, 9) The filmmaker put an interesting twist on this by illustrating the aliens as wanting to take over for selfish reasons initially, not revenge. They just wanted domination, so the filmmaker sent the Ripley and crew by spaceship to another planet to attack the aliens on their own ground by surprise. Also, it would not have fit the storyline for the alien warriors to be drinking beer on another planet. That just would not have made sense. Instead, they While the same basic ideas and theme were in place with regards to the monster or alien invading, followed by the hero gathering the determination to go deep into the monster's lair, then defeating the monster, there were many creative twists.
In Aliens II, there had been a previous battle fought, and there were humans living on the planet where the aliens were taking over, when Ripley made the ultimate decision to be selfless like Beowulf and travel back to the planet to defeat the aliens. Ripley, unlike Beowulf did not die. Rather, she rescued the daughter-like figure that was not by birth, but throughout the movie Ripley protected her like a mother-figure would. She saved the little girl several times because she had promised to bring her home safe.
At the end of the book, Beowulf makes it home just in time to pass away after defeating the dragon. Aliens II had a nice twist at the end by letting the viewer think they were not going to make it home, then having the ship rescue them at the last second. Both ending battles were fought by the warrior alone. Beowulf showed no fear for his life when he entered into battle with the dragon, similar to the final confrontation with the alien queen being attacked by Ripley by herself, entering into an elevator shaft and preparing her weaponry as she descends to meet her fate. Both warriors' weapons failed, so they were forced to use other means. The filmmaker's twist to this scene was for Ripley to find a huge robot machine that was self-propelled to defeat the mother alien in the end.
This added a lot of surprise to what the audience was expecting, but made it very interesting for the viewer. The chronological order and details also had to be altered in order to make the movie interesting. The main fights did not follow the same direct pattern in Aliens II as it was read in Beowulf. In the beginning of Beowulf when he slayed Grendel, his mother tried to kill the warrior. This was depicted differently in Aliens II when the mother figure did not attempt to defeat the hero until the last scene. It would not have fit in the same order as in Beowulf, because there would be no suspenseful end.
So, for the thrilling aspect of a viewer, since the filmmaker chose for the hero not to die, the order of events had to be manipulated accordingly. Beowulf was told from a third person point of view and that worked well for the book version of the story, but in order to make a movie exciting, the actors of course, communicated their own lines for entertainment purposes. How suspenseful would a movie be if the actors only acted and did not say their own lines? It would not make for a good translation of an epic! Also, the heroes take on different roles in the two stories. In Beowulf, he is a Swedish typical male warrior, which is in complete contrast to the American female warrior Sigourney Weaver portrays in Ripley. That allows the film to take on a whole different point of view, being from a woman's standpoint. It is simple to point out the differences in Beowulf and Aliens II, but it gets incredibly interesting when you start explaining how a filmmaker takes an epic and puts his own twist, creativity, and originality on it to fabricate his own work of art.
This work of art had to be fabricated for a viewing rather than a reading, so in order for the filmmaker to make it interesting for his audience, he had to alter things such as the characters, setting, plot, theme, point of view, chronological order, and symbolism an epic was turned into an enjoyable movie. Beowulf, the book Aliens II, the movie.