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Shaping a story over time

Author: Grann-Bach ( from Denmark
12 February 2010

This is the second-to-shortest featurette on the 2-Disc Director's Cut DVD of Beowulf, with a running time of 5 minutes. It consists of interviews, clips of the film and concept artwork. They go over the evolution of the legend, and how old it actually is. This should definitely not be watched by anyone who has not already seen the movie itself, as it spoils numerous plot twists, as well as potentially the very ending. It is very interesting to hear about the origins... this is literally the first bit of fiction that we know to be written down, as it took over from the tradition of orally spreading the word. The fact that it has always been altered based upon who was telling it is pointed out, and I do kinda more or less agree with the supposition that it makes this simply be the next in line, as they also changed it for this, as you probably already know. Let's face it, it was never that compelling of a credible source of history. This is well-edited and the pace is smooth. It is not boring for a second, if you are one of us who wish to find out about the subject. I recommend this to anyone who belongs in this group. 7/10

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The evolution of the oldest English language story

Author: Chip_douglas from Rijswijk, ZH, Netherlands
28 August 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After two substantial fly-on-the-wall documentaries that followed the production (or motion capturing) of Beowulf (2007) on set (or if you will, The Volume) we settle down into the usual DVD extra fare that features talking heads in front of blue- (or possibly green) screens and lots of clips from the film that effortless segue into moving 3-D piece of preproduction art work. How did they make these paintings move I hear you ask? Well, my guess is it has something to do with the fact that although the artists probably started off working on pencil and paper, nearly every piece was scanned into the computer and finished in Adobe Photoshop (which originated in the Lucasfilm offices, surprise, surprise) or a similar program (and in other cases the paper part was skipped over altogether).

However, this 5 minute segment is a showcase for the writers, Neil Gaiman and Rober Avery. First off the explain that Beowulf, the oldest known poem in the English language is estimated to have been written sometime between the 7th and 12th century, but most likely had been told orally for some time before that. Now Neil and Rog reckoned that the only people with the ability to write in those days were monks, and that some of the juicy bits most likely would have been edited out by these enlightened scribes. Therefore, they took it upon themselves to put back as much raunchy stuff as they could muster. And it worked to wet Robert Zemeckis appetite, who freely admits never having to have been interested in the original, boring (his words) poem at all. And so, Gaiman & Avery insisted on taking an 'As told by' credit on the screenplay, seeing as they were merely the latest in a long line of story shapers.

Of course they don't mention delving into the many adaptations of Beowulf that have been made in popular media over the last century or so (be they literary, comic book, radio, TV or film versions). For instance, G and A talk about the revelation in their screenplay of Grendel being Hrothgar's son, a twist in the tale also used in the futuristic 1999 film version of Beowulf starring Christopher Lamber in the title role. Also, the notion of presenting Grendel as a rather more sympathetic monster and the introduction of Christianity to the Danes were already incorporated into 2005's Beowulf & Grendel with Gerard Butler as the heroic Mr. B. Neither of those versions feature the third act of the original tale, the part with the dragon, so at least N and R can safely claim the alterations and additions they wrote for that segment to be totally theirs. And I must say, the decision to keep the story set in Denmark instead of moving Beowulf's fatherland of Sweden was a good one (Gaiman says they tried it the original way in an early draft).

Gaiman ends this piece with a great line about the age of monsters coming to an end (which also leads nicely into the next segment on the DVD). Shame Avery is less adept at hiding his nerdyness and had to attempt to do an impersonation of his writing partners English accent earlier.

7 out of 10

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