I don’t go by my mailbox in the Medieval Studies office very often, because the only real reason I need an academic mailbox is as a temporary holding pen for unread Dean’s excuses from my students and calls for papers for conferences I probably heard about online several weeks ago. Also, I have mailboxes in History and English, too, and they are in more convenient places. But every so often, a trip to the old 12″x9″x 5″-inch slot at the bottom of Wall Street brings me glorious rewards.
As longtime readers of my blog know, once I got a book. An autographed book. And this other time, I got a hat.* Both came from appreciative readers.** So this past week, when I strolled by my mailbox, what to my wondering eyes did appear?
IT… WAS… BEOWULF!!! [If you’ve seen the movie, you know how that should be said.]
Apparently, my review of the 2007 movie from the man who brought you Death Becomes Her and Bordello of Blood has brought my humble blog to the attention of the powers that be in Hollywood, and some random intern working on marketing the Director’s Cut DVD of the movie thought that a mention on this blog might be the extra push needed to drive the DVD to #1 on the sales chart. So, they gave me free advance copy of the movie.
The postmark on the package was roughly two weeks before the DVD’s release, which was over a week ago when I finally got around to checking that mailbox, so that means I’m at least three weeks behind schedule in watching the thing and posting here about it. So much for the advanceness of it. Oh, poor overworked intern, I failed you. I’m pretty sure that when the sales figures come in, Tyler Perry will stand gloating over the hero of Heorot, and all because of me.
I fast-forwarded through the movie, looking for the additions that make this the Director’s Cut, but from all I could see, the director was pretty happy with the Theatrical Cut and just added 10% extra blood-splatter to a few fight scenes. I’m sure that if there is ever a commentary track of this movie, Zemeckis will pull a George Lucas and explain that 2007 technology just did not let him to realize his full artistic vision of a little bit of extra blood here and there, but luckily 2008 technology allowed him to amend the lack.
There are a few featurettes on the disc, but there’s not much to them. So instead of reviewing them individually, I’ll just share what I learned from them with you now, in no particular order:
- Beowulf is the oldest poem written in English. [Sorry Caedmon.]
- In the Middle Ages, only monks could write. And they only wrote boring things.
- Everybody who worked on the film wants to make this clear: they did not enjoy reading Beowulf in junior high. Booooor-ing!
- Beowulf is a classic story that influenced so much later literature, like… uh, the Arthurian legends and… um (think… think… what else is literature? Wait…) the Lord of the Rings.
- Nonetheless, Beowulf is a flawed poem, because, what the hell, a dragon at the end? Why would there be a dragon? And why does he attack Beowulf? It makes no sense. Unless… and stay with me here, what if the dragon was really Beowulf’s son? Genius!
- Also, why does Grendel attack Hrothgar? It makes no sense. Unless… and stay with me here, what if Grendel was really Hrothgar’s son? Genius!
- Also, why does Darth Vader attack Luke? It makes no sense. Unless… and stay with me here, what if Darth Vader was really Luke’s son? Genius!
- Angelina Jolie had a sweet clause in her contract that specified that she didn’t have to show up to stupid things like cast meetings or set tours or technical explanations or featurette shootings.
OK, ranty list done. Now, some of the nice and/or neat things I learned from the featurettes:
- Ray Winstone (Beowulf) seems to be a funny, likable guy who is fully aware of how weird it is that his character has abs sculpted of stone while he has a body by Duff Beer in real life.
- The props the actors used were represented by wire-frame facsimiles that were made of loud, fluorescent plastic. The Horn of Much Symbolism, for instance, was hot pink.
- As much as they relied on The Horn of Much Symbolism, many scenes that featured it were cut from the final film. I presume this is because the Horn’s agent was demanding a higher cut of the gross.
- Even though they feel comfortable showing a digital idealization of Ms. Jolie’s parts in the movie itself, the featurette director inserted a big blue oval to cover a horse’s private parts when it urinated during the middle of the featurette.***
- During the fight scenes, Crispin Glover wrestled with cute stuffed Geats.
To finish up, I’d like to thank the intern for the
foolish generous thought that sucking up to this blog would somehow help the DVD’s sales. If anyone else would like to suck up to me, the door [or intermittently-checked mailbox] is open.
*Which I still wear to this day. Thanks again, Best Reader Ever 2006.
**The question you should all be asking yourselves now is, “how can I best show my appreciation to that guy what has that blog?” Of course, I consider this blog to be a missionary outpost that brings the joys of medievalism to the world, so I need no reward *cough**cough*Amazon Wishlist*cough*.
***Having sat through several lectures on the Bayeux Tapestry in which the professor continually referenced the “tumescent members” of the horses for no apparent reason, I think I was actually relieved that they gave the horse privacy while it relieved itself. Though why they didn’t just reshoot the interview, I don’t know.