This definitely not the early proto-English epic Beowulf that featured somewhere during the first couple of weeks of my “Intro to English Literature Part 1” course that I remember from yea these many years ago; the one that covered everything up to about the 18th Century. And it is not quite as risible as it appeared from the movie trailer – I mean, a daemonic Angelina Jolie, starkers and rising from the depths of a subterranean pool and seducing Ray Winstone as he undoubtedly wishes he was? No, this is not what I remember from sophomore English Lit, but it’s not half bad, considered on its own terms. (And my daughter, who remembers him from the 1980s ‘Robin Hood’ insists that the producers were lucker to get him than they were to get her. It is her opinion that he is one of those pecularly memorable actors who has such energy and presence, that he is the one you can’t keep your attention away from, no matter who else is in the scene. Think of him as the English Gene Hackman.)

Visually, this is as different a movie as just about anything recently produced for the big screen; it’s what a video game, or a graphic novel would look like, if the producer only had an unlimited budget. And it does work, briskly paced and imaginatively staged – this may be the future of a certain sort of fantasy movie, generating an elaborate, consistent and richly detailed ‘look’ and special effects from a computer program, rather than from matte paintings, painted cheesecloth and sculptured Styrofoam. It’s not anything like this – but it will pass a Saturday evening as well as much else and probably better than most, especially of your household contains teenage males. Amazingly, Neil Gaiman had much to do with this, as a writer. This is the second film he has scripted that I have watched and reviewed lately and enjoyed- much against initial expectations. If a coincidence, make of it what you will. (Stardust was the other one. Review here)

The extras on this DVD disc – all about how that look was created and generated are almost more interesting than the movie itself, even if they do somewhat spoil the magic. How they did it, and looking at the bare set, the weird ‘motion capture’ suit, and the wire-frame and weighted props – it’s almost as fascinating as the movie itself, even if it does strip away most of the magic. It raises without meaning to, some uncomfortable questions for the producers of Hollywood epics in the next couple of decades. Namely; what use will producers have for impossibly perfect flesh-and-blood-top-of-the-food-chain actors, when you can take perfectly able but lesser and perhaps not so good-looking actor and with the click of a mouse make them look as good as you want and as fit as you need.

“Beowulf” is available Tuesday from Amazon.com and other retail outlets.

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com

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