Beowulf: Not Out of the Uncanny Valley Yet

Posted on 16th March 2008 by Ryan Somma in Mediaphilism

Saw Beowulf Friday night, not a classic tale I’m particularly fond of, but I was curious about this being the first attempt to make a film with as-real-as-possible human characters since Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within belly-flopped in 2001 (not counting mixture CGI/live action films like The Matrix, which also failed).

The film still failed overcome my Uncanny Valley response; however, it was far superior to Final Fantasy. This realism was probably because this film used motion-capture technology to model the characters on live actors, like Disney cartoon films. This allowed film makers to turn Ray Winstone into a young, athletic action hero.

Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins in Beowulf

Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins in Beowulf

As for the story itself, since Beowulf was passed down as an oral tradition for a long time before finally being committed to written text (like the Christian Gospels), it falls prey to the broken telephone effect (this is also why the gospels contradict one another). This means film makers are free to put their own spin on their adaptations. However a magnificent flop at the box office, The 13th Warrior was one such adaptation, crafting a plausible story about a battle between Vikings and primitive cannibals that could become Beowulf through decades of retelling and embellishment.

This film takes similar liberties, but preserves the fantastic elements. If you intend to see this version, I recommend familiarizing yourself with a synopsis of the tale in order to appreciate how it diverges from the original and why.

1 Comment

  1. […] flaws become more apparent and we find it disturbing. The characters in the computer animated film Beowulf suffered from this phenomenon, as did Final Fantasy, The Spirits Within before it. Terminator: […]

    Pingback by » Blog Archive » Will James Cameron’s Avatar Escape the Uncanny Valley? — October 15, 2009 @ 9:01 pm

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