Beowulf: the digital monster movie

William John Robert Campbell Brown

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf (2007) is the director’s second foray into computer-generated animation, following 2004’s Polar Express. Although other computer animations have gained prominent releases recently, and while computer animation has also featured strongly in films that retain a ‘flesh and blood’ cast, Beowulf deserves note for a number of features, features that this paper will explore. Firstly, the level of realism, in terms of the credibility of the animation, has reached a new high in the film, particularly on the level of the facial registering of human emotions. Although far from perfect, this does point to a future in which ‘synthespians’ will indeed be indistinguishable from human actors. Secondly, the spatial continuity of Beowulf’s diegesis, together with its thematic concern for the ‘monstrous’ (it is alleged that Beowulf as much as Grendel is the monster in this film) ties in with current thinking (Suzanne Hême de Lacotte, after Gilles Deleuze; Mary Ann Doane) that digital technology renders cinema a ‘monstrator,’ based on montrage instead of montage, a monstrous cinema in which everything is shown (monstrated).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2008


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