New Beowulf Adaptation: Return to the Shieldlands

ITV Studios is producing a new Beowulf adaptation. Named Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, the mini-series puts a modern spin on one of the oldest poems in Old English. According to Esquire Network:

“Based on the complex protagonist of a classic poem written between the eighth and tenth century, Beowulf takes place in a mythological place, The Shieldlands, and challenges the notions of good and evil, heroes and villains, and the rule of law against one’s moral code. The drama stars Kieran Bew (DA VINCI’S DEMONS), in the lead role Beowulf; multi-award- winning actor William Hurt (DAMAGES); acclaimed actress Joanne Whalley (WOLF HALL); Ed Speleers (DOWNTON ABBEY) and David Ajala (BLACK BOX).”

IMDB Beowulf Return to the Shieldlands
Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, ITV via IMDB

Beowulf: RttS started airing in U.K early January 2016, and Esquire Network is bringing it to U.S. January 23. Location work for the production was shot in the north east of England, in county Durham and Northumberland; 13 episodes have been produced so far. The show has a very perfunctory Instagram account and a more active Facebook page. There’s also a behind the scenes piece with live action clips:

Beowulf Behind The Scenes The World Revealed with Kieran Bew and Ed Speleers via Esquire Network

Beowulf: RttS definitely holds some promise. Apart from being inspired by Actual History(TM) and Anglo-Saxons / Old English to boot, it sounds like there’s some gender-bending (International Business Times reports a “new female thane”); in addition, photos include not just white men among the cast (see MedievalPOC and

IMDB Beowulf Return to the Shieldlands2
Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, ITV via IMDB

While I’m excited about the recent resurgence of genre films and tv productions in general, I’m discouraged by the apparent lack of quality control that comes with trying to ride the trend to make a quick buck. (Vikings, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, or 2015 Fantastic Four, anyone?)

Sadly, it sounds like Beowulf: RttS might be one of them: according to U.K news site Metro, viewers criticize the series for its “unconvincing CGI, stilted dialogue and unrealistic action sequences” and as “a blatant rip-off ” of Game of Thrones. I can add to the list some decidedly silly costuming and a peculiar combination of plausible and fanciful in the sets and props. I’m torn whether to give it a shot or not – on one hand, it’s based on Beowulf, for crying out loud; on the other, WTF is going on with the design!?

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.