Po­etry In Mo­tion

SFX - - Reviews -

re­leased OUT NOW! 2016 | 12 | DVD

Cre­ators James Dormer, Tim Haines, Katie New­man

Cast Kieran Bew, Joanne Whal­ley, Ed Speleers, Holly Earl

The big­gest mys­tery about Be­owulf: Re­turn To The Shield­lands is its name. Not just be­cause this 12- part ITV se­ries bears about as much re­sem­blance to the epic poem as it does to Mup­pet Trea­sure Is­land, but be­cause the writ­ers seem to lose in­ter­est in Be­owulf about 30 min­utes into the pi­lot.

As the se­ries pro­gresses and the pol­i­tick­ing of var­i­ous tribal lead­ers and their back­stab­bing rel­a­tives comes to the fore, Be­owulf in­creas­ingly finds him­self sent down to the woods for the B- plot of the week – usu­ally hunt­ing some CG beast. He spends the sea­son be­ing bested in fights by old men, women and thieves, and he even outs a bigot! The show has an in­ter­est­ing sub­text about “mythical beast apartheid” – and our sup­posed hero is squarely in the hu­man su­prem­a­cist cor­ner.

Flawed heroes can be a good thing, but not in a show like Be­owulf. It might have Game Of Thrones pre­ten­sions but it’s ac­tu­ally closer to the BBC’s more trad Mer­lin. It needs a prop­erly heroic hero for au­di­ences to cheer on, not some morally grey boot­boy.

Oddly, take out Be­owulf and you have a half- de­cent show. The lav­ish pro­duc­tion de­sign, the lush cin­e­matog­ra­phy and the OTT cos­tumes all im­press. There are some fan­tas­tic bat­tles, and the CG crea­tures have a sur­pris­ing amount of char­ac­ter. Sure, the di­a­logue’s of­ten cheesy, the plot­ting’s clunky and some of the guest act­ing is em­bar­rass­ingly am dram, but by the end Be­owulf is nearly, so nearly, be­gin­ning to feel like a bona fide epic.

Ex­tras None. Dave Golder

Be­owulf’s Dark Ages vil­lage was built in an old lime­stone quarry in County Durham, which used to serve a ce­ment works.

Some trees are ex­tremely at­trac­tive.

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