The Norse God Thor & Eirick the Bloodletter Await Your Arrival To B-Movie Heaven!
Jan 20, 2014
Take note, gentle warriors: highbrow critics have always been quick (and first) to dismiss the validity of the fantasy film. Why? Well, there are possibly scores of reasons that range from “it simply wasn’t my cup of tea” all the way up to “I have trouble taking anything with elves seriously.” For the most part, I’ve always thought the critical intelligentsia find fault with anything that reduces the narrative to the simplest common denominator: the classical adventure of good triumphing over evil. Critics tend to get lost in the nuances of performance because they find themselves particularly fascinated with shades of gray while the rest of us live by the kinder, nobler standard of “entertain us.” We want action. We want heroes. We want escape. And we’ll happily tolerate a hint of romance amongst the testosterone.
Might I recommend VIKINGDOM? For all of its weaknesses (sure, they’re there), it’s a good old-fashioned story of the man who against his best interests rises up to stand alongside his brother to do the right thing for all of mankind. Draped in B-movie sentimentality, it makes for a wonderfully cinematic experience some might mistake as a video game, and its vision is so grand you’ll be happy you stayed for the story.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
In this version of Norse mythology, Thor isn’t some benevolent do-gooder in a Marvel Entertainment motion picture; rather, he’s a god – one angry at all of mankind for trashing his fellow gods in favor of the single Christian one. As a consequence of our betrayal, he seeks to punish the world under his vengeful wrath, but in order to make that best happen he needs a few things to pull it off the best effect: the Horn of Helheim, the Necklace of Magdalene, and his own Hammer from Valhalla. Thank goodness there are men like Eirick (Dominic Purcell) willing to lose the shackles of medieval middle class, round up a merry band of marauders, and fight toe-to-toe against Thor and his forces to save every one of us from certain doom.
Those of us who’ve often lamented the passing of the B-movie have plenty to be excited about with the DVD release of VIKINGDOM. I’ve written often before about how the revolution of home video throughout the 70’s and 80’s gifted audiences with a whole new breed of storytelling, and, in the late 90’s, I speculated that the emergence of more affordable digital resources would inevitably do much the same (hello, internet). VIKINGDOM emerges as exactly the kind of spectacle one would expect: a bare-knuckled old school action picture manufactured for no other purpose than to entertain … and that it does.
Dominic Purcell makes for a terrific hero, as do as assortment of actors who fill out the fellowship serving to aide in the fulfillment of his quest to stop Thor. John Foo stars as a nimble ‘Yang’ – a high-flying, karate-chopping sidekick – and Natassia Malthe is delicious as ‘the woman who would defy men’ as a warrior and kinda/sorta love interest. There are a handful of others who take up sword and axe in defense of our world; but, alas, their characterizations are so simply drawn they practically blend in with the heavily CGI-laden backgrounds except when they’re in battle. That’s not an insult – they’re here as sweaty musclemen to serve a purpose, to fight and to serve as an able-bodied companion, which they do quite well.
Of course a film like VIKINGDOM is going to have shortcomings as well as a stable of high-minded detractors. All one need do is surf over to any number of reputable review sites, and I’m quite certain you’ll find more than one or two who dismiss the flick as yet one more disc on the shelves of forgettable direct-to-DVD releases. But for my tastes? VIKINGDOM serves up just enough accomplishment, just enough spectacle, and just enough sizzle to be a great evening in front of the television. This is TV’s “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” on steroids. It’s “Xena: Warrior Princess” with a better budget. Sure, the climax features Eirick the Bloodletter facing off Thor much like a ‘cage match of the gods’ at Stonehenge, but I expected that going in and thankfully wasn’t disappointed. You shouldn’t be either.
VIKINGDOM (2013) is produced by KRU Studios. DVD distribution is being handled by Epic Pictures. As for the technical specifications, the highest quality sights and sounds were used in bringing this fantasy picture to life; some might be eager to dismiss it as little more than a home-video-game-style creation, but that would be dismissive to its smart cinematography as well as its adherence to the classic storytelling structure on the ‘hero’s quest.’ As is so often the case when these smaller features find release, there are no involved special features to speak of – there’s a brief ‘making of’ short (25 minutes) that includes some cast interviews, as well as a music video as theatrical trailers, but I would’ve liked a bit more in-depth coverage, mostly because good fantasy films don’t come down the pike often enough.
RECOMMENDED. VIKINGDOM is a throwback to times when action films didn’t necessarily mean much more than some quality fisticuffs dished out by sweaty men and women dressed up like Roman soldiers on their way to a gang fight. Plus, it’s got a wizard! Where else are you going to get that kind of fun with supernatural elements and a mix of special effects that’ll make your head (and eyes) spin? Turn off the brain. Pop yourself some corn. Put the lights down low. Cheer at a movie once more. It’s a bit long at 112 minutes, but, otherwise, it’s a helluva lotta fun.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Epic Pictures provided me with an advance DVD copy of VIKINGDOM by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.