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It’s not inconceivable that the single poet often attributed to the “official” recorded text of Beowulf might have been aware that in the very process of committing to parchment a mess of real historical figures, locations, and occurrences blended with freshly imagined interpretations of traditional legend and fictions he was performing an utterly new act. Not inconceivable—but perhaps unlikely. Though Beowulf was commonly held by scholars as among the earliest recorded works of English literature, its writing down on paper was more likely due to a moment of inspired invention borne of necessity than a self-conscious desire for entry into the historical record. If the latter were the case, I’m sure we’d know well the identity of Beowulf’s “author.”

What a different a millennia makes—flash forward about a thousand years and the crew behind the technology-driven film adaptation of the Old English epic poem have arrived singing the praises of their own advances from the rooftops; hosannas abound in trade and entertainment publications as if Robert Zemeckis’s Beowulf was already a formative part of some new computer-generated lore. It may well be. More than a little unnerved by the bulbous, shark-eyed plasticine forms that populated the director’s previous foray into “performance capture” technology, I left The Polar Express to more heroic members of the Reverse Shot team. But promises that Beowulf represented a huge leap forward in the technology (More realistic movements! No more dead eyes!), and my love for this much groaned-over staple of high school and college lit classes were enough to lure me to a theater, even in the face of a wildly infantile (yet apparently successful) marketing campaign. Click here to read the rest of Jeff Reichert’s “We Have the Technology.”

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