I’m not sure exactly what prompted me to put Beowulf on my Netflix list, but I’m glad that I did. It was thoroughly entertaining.

The entire movie is a CGI animation that doesn’t quite work – anyone looking at the characters sees them as so human that they are revolted by the imperfections of the images. It’s called the Uncanny Valley by robot creators, with some of very reasonable possible explanations as to why people are universally revolted by these near-perfect representations. In order to enjoy Beowulf, you need to ignore the impulse.

My favorite part of the movie (besides a nude Angelina Jolie, which has to top any male viewer’s list) was the mead hall that Grendal attacks in the beginning of the movie. While the speeches describe it as a grand hall, it really looks like a large wooden shack thrown up by near savage woodsmen in Scandinavia 1500 years ago—it basically looked really accurate. The castle that shows up later in the movie is a more typical, unrealistic Hollywood fantasy, but at least someone was thinking early on in the movie. I credit Neil Gaiman, though his input in the film may well have disappeared ten years before anyone started filming (animating).

I don’t know much about the original story. It never interested me like much older tales (Gilgamesh, the Bible, Homer). I always figured it for a Johnny-come-lately of the epic tales, interesting only for being in Old English. I’ll need to revise that opinion since discovering one of the premiere scholars of Beowulf was none other than J.R.R. Tolkien. An early Middle Ages tale of monsters, dragons and heroes. Does this sound familiar … ?

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