Before Game of Thrones arrived, 2017’s animated feature film, Beowulf, featured many of the themes and ideas set up in the popular HBO TV series. Look no further if you’re looking for high fantasy featuring dragons, witchcraft, warriors and legends.
It’s no secret that George R.R. Martin has been working on the A Song of Ice and Fire series for quite a while now. Fans of the books have been waiting for a conclusion to cliffhangers left by A Dance of Dragons since 2011 – which should put how much time Martin has spent with this world and its characters into perspective.
By this point, the universe Martin wrote for the books and the world crafted for the Game of Thrones show are two completely different entities. One of the most memorable aspects of Game of Thrones is its rich visuals and compelling storytelling format. It’s not easy to adapt an epic such as A Song of Ice and Fire into a digestible audiovisual project, but the show somehow managed to do just that.
As impressive as it sounds, Game of Thrones is far from being the first adaptation of an epic tale of this magnitude. In 2007, filmmaker Robert Zemeckis directed a technical marvel that has flown under the radar of fantasy fans for quite some time, but it deserves all the praise that critics gave it back when it was released. We´re talking of Beowulf, a stunning adaptation written for the screen by Neil Gaiman – and which might have influenced the showrunners of Game of Thrones in more ways than we can count.
The ancient tale of Beowulf is one of the most prominent classics of Anglo-Saxon literature and culture. As such, it would be no surprise to hear that Martin might have based some elements of his mythology on the stories surrounding this brave Geatish warrior that would eventually become a controversial king.
Beowulf presents a story that demystifies royalty – it takes kings and heroes and paints them as the mere humans that they are, complete with their innate human weaknesses. Greed, shame, lust… all the sins of the common which usually evade some of the more recognizable characters in literature are all present in Beowulf, just as they are in Game of Thrones.
The fact that Martin used these legends as a basis for some of his writing is a given, seeing as how he uses creatures such as troll-like giants and dragons to liven up his fantasy world. Additionally, Angelina Jolie’s character in the 2007 adaptation of Beowulf could be seen as the same character archetype as Melissandre, complete with the whole nebulous morality she has.
Still, one of the more impressive aspects of the 2007 adaptation is that it manages to condense a story spanning decades into just under two hours of storytelling. This feat is similar to what the Game of Thrones show has accomplished, following the same formula of focusing on the actions and notable plot points of a select cast of central characters almost exclusively.
Though the motion-capture tech used in Beowulf is beginning to show its age, its setpieces and designs remain as fresh as they ever were. Perhaps that’s why so much of Beowulf’s castle looks as if it belongs right next door to Winterfell. True, the Stark’s ancestral home is inspired by the real-life culture of the northern parts of medieval England, but there’s no denying the similarities between the designs of the Beowulf film and the sets in Game of Thrones are more than just uncanny.
If you loved Game of Thrones (the early seasons, at least) and are just counting the hours until the next season of House of the Dragon arrives, then consider giving 2007’s Beowulf a watch – you won’t regret it!