Sunday, November 25, 2007

"I am Beowulf!" Not.

"I am Beowulf!"
Sort of...
(Image from Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I saw Beowulf.

I know that the man was Beowulf because he reminded me repeatedly, in case I should possibly forget, that he was Beowulf.

He shouted, "I am Beowulf!"

He announced it to the audience. He announced it to sea monsters. He announced it to King Hrothgar, whose realm was under attack by the monster Grendel. He announced it one time too many when he repeated it to the mysteriously-acute-of-hearing Grendel just as he was ripping off Grendel's arm. Grendel left his arm with Beowulf but took the name back to his monstrous mother, who decided that Beowulf was precisely the man whom she'd been waiting for:
"Beowulf tore off my son's arm! Wow! What a man! Gotta have him!"
Women. Who can understand them?

Anyway, Grendel's mother gets her man and bears him a mandragon, a word that I've just coined and that means either a man who is a dragon or a dragon that is a man. Anyway, this mandragon grows up surrounded by his mother's primal hoard, and in the year that marks his coming of age -- about 50, I presume -- he wings forth to slay Beowulf his father.

The 3D special effects were absolutely spectacular.

Or so I'm told. The Korean cinema where I watched the film Beowulf didn't supply the special glasses that one would need for perceiving 3D. So I sat there in my seat observing, "Oh, that would look great in 3D."

But it didn't look so great in 2D. The digital motion capture technology works better in Beowulf than it did in The Polar Express, but it doesn't yet capture emotion. The faces didn't look quite real but more like Madame Tussauds' wax images of well-known actors. In a few years, we'll all laugh at this technology's primitive state.

But since we never know when our time is coming, I've decided to laugh now.

Yet, not everything about the film is ridiculable. Some critics have faulted the movie Beowulf for not staying true to the poem Beowulf. I differ from those critics. I think that the movie takes the poem seriously but deconstructs it by suggesting that the poem was a cover-up. Yes, admits the movie, Beowulf was a hero, but those old Germanic heroes were boastful men who were not above exaggerating their genuine exploits to make them sound even more impressive. Beowulf lied in claiming to have killed Grendel's mother by piercing her repeatedly with his 'sword', though there was a real piercing and perhaps a similitude of dying ... offscreen, for the film leaves that scene to our multidimensional imagination.

Beowulf's lies haunt him and return in monstrous form -- not a mantroll this time but a mandragon, for Hrothgar, who had similarly succumbed to the monstrously beautiful succubus that had borne him Grendel, was a lesser hero than Beowulf, whose offspring was something horribly greater.

Grendel. Grendel's mother. The dragon. Thus are the monsters -- unconnected in the poem -- intimately linked through the movie, a clever reinterpretation that will get a lot of attention in upcoming Medieval conferences.

More grist for the mill...

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19 Comments:

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Hathor said...

I haven't seen the movie, but I don't see the point of digitally animating real actors. I must be an old fogey.

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I agree, Hathor. The movie would have been better with the real actors. Possibly -- but I don't know -- the special effects can be more easily done with digitally animated actors.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Charles said...

The dragon was Beowulf's son? Wuh?

I haven't seen the movie yet, and have no intention of seeing it. From what I've read, the big draw of the film was Angelina Jolie's (animated) boobies in 3D.

 
At 4:35 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, Charles, that dragon bit surprised me. I mean, from the poem, I had no idea...

But maybe that was what was meant by the line "Beowulf had more draggin'..."

As for Jolie's jolly bobbing boobies, I didn't notice that they were particularly animated, though she did have what at first appeared to be a rather animated prehensile tail...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:05 AM, Anonymous kapok said...

Ah Jeff,

One doesn't need the "special glasses" were one to follow precisely the recipe (including especially the brown-shelled egg)Jk provided some posts back.

Everything flat appears in 3-D then. Boobies bob at every turn too. But. Essay grading becomes a problem.

JK

 
At 6:12 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, with that recipe, I might never return to the normal 3D world...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I AM.....BEOWULF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 
At 11:20 PM, Anonymous Chad Borowitz said...

I AM SLASHER,RIPPER,TEAER, THE TEETH IN THE DARKNESS

I
AM
BEOWULF!!!!!

 
At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Jesus said...

Rank of Badasses:
5.Leonidas
4.Chuck Norris
3.Barry Gibb
2.Dick Butkus
1.Beowulf

 
At 3:35 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, thanks. I'd nearly forgotten.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:36 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Chad Borowitz, thanks for posting that. I rather liked those lines and was trying to recall them.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:46 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jesus, thanks for posting here and raising the sanctity bar.

Beowulf beats out Dick Butkus? Wow! You know, I bet that Beowulf would have made a great football player. He's big, he's strong, he's surprisingly quick and agile, and he's got the smarts to be great.

He could play for the Minnesota Vikings, and I predict that he would take them to the championship.

But -- like Joe Namath -- he's gotta watch his womanizing. Maybe you could help him on that, given your own, successful resistance to that last, Kazantzakian temptation...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What does Kazantzakian temptation mean?

Badasses 6-10:
10.Sean Connery
9.Jesus
8.Shaft
7.Jack Lambert
6.Russel Crowe

Horace Jeffery Hodges, i concede to your wisdom, are you from minnesota?

 
At 11:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the best lines are as followed:

Beowulf: I am Ripper... Tearer... Slasher... Gouger. I am the Teeth in the Darkness, the Talons in the Night. Mine is Strength... and Lust... and Power! I AM BEOWULF!

 
At 4:46 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, did you post twice (or perhaps several times)? Maybe you need a pseudonym (or a consistent one?) to be kept straight. I'll assume that you posted twice (or more). Anyway, I'm not complaining, and thanks for posting.

The Kazantzakian temptation refers to The Last Temptation of Christ, a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, in which Satan's last attempt to tempt Christ was as he hung upon the cross, and the temptation was a vision of Mary Magdalene as his lover.

Minnesota? No, I'm an Arkansawyer from the Ozark Mountains. So I'd hope that Beowulf would attend the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville as an undergraduate and play for the Razorbacks before going on to a career with the Vikings.

And that line is the best, I agree. Grendel looked terrified. The former terror of the night now terrified.

The film had such great possibility. Too bad it didn't quite measure up ... in my opinion.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:28 AM, Blogger eshuneutics said...

http://www.alternet.org/sex/68959/
This is a weird little article about Beowulf (film) as an American v Korea allegory.

 
At 10:14 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Eshuneutics. I'll take a look.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:54 AM, Blogger Denis Hancock said...

An interesting take on the discrepancy between the original text and the 2007 film. (can we still call them "films" if it is all digital)

Perhaps that is why Beowulf's lie was closer to the Old English text than what the film showed....

 
At 4:38 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Denis, good to see you again.

I think that attributing a major lie to Beowulf is an interesting move in the movie and could have worked very well if other things had been better handled.

The Danes and Geats could have been portrayed more positively. Yes, they were savage warriors and drank to excess, but they were also dignified, at least in the poem.

More could have been done with the Christianity angle, too, but that chance is now gone. We're still waiting for the great Beowulf film.

Jeffery Hodges

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