“Live by the sword. Die like a Viking.”
Directed by Yusry Abdul Halim
Starring Dominic Purcell, Conan Stevens, Craig Fairbrass, Natassia Malthe and Jon Foo
When Norse god Thor decides he’s going to conquer all of Midgard, Viking warrior Eirik (Purcell) gets dragged out of retirement to make sure he doesn’t get all the magical treasures he needs to pull it off. Eirik assembles a ragtag band of adventurers, including rough-hewn woodsman type Sven (Fairbrass), misplaced kung-fu master Yang (Foo), sexy archer lady Brynna (Malthe), a couple of muscle-bound oafs, an impetuous youngster, a bard, an eccentric wizard and so on, and goes off to face Thor. After a few double- and triple-crosses, he overcomes the baddy. Everyone is happy except for about half the team, who are dead.
What’s wrong with it?
The basis of this film’s terribleness is its series of shockingly inappropriate visual choices. I’m not talking about its crap visual effects so much as its … perhaps I’d better show you.
This is Conan Stevens as Thor. Someone put that costume together, dyed his hair Kool-Aid red, looked at it and went: Nailed it.
And throughout the film, there are just tons of inexplicable things like that. Here’s another one: Eirik has to descend into Helheim to retrieve the horn of blah blah blah, and to do so he has to get past Garm. You know the drill. But this is what Garm looks like:
A T-rex with a giant comedy dog head on.
And that’s leaving aside the more basic visual goofery: unconvincing CGI, ropey sets and possibly the worst collection of wigs extant.
The other problem is that the acting is dia-bloody-bolical. Purcell and Malthe were cast for looks. Malthe talks like she’s memorised her lines but doesn’t know what they mean. But English is Purcell’s native goddamn language, and he delivers every line like he’s reading off a list of menu items. Dude is swole, though. I’m not gonna lie. Veteran British goofball Patrick Murray is the main exception; he mugs his way through it like a man who is well aware how goddamn dumb this movie is.
Also, no one can agree how anything is pronounced.
Oh, and Brynna is a super tiresome Action Chick but she still gets undercut to make a male character look better.
What’s right with it?
When I started watching this film, I thought that it was going to be one of those awful movies like Almighty Thor — just bland and boring and dumb. But it’s really eventful and dumb. Say what you like about the quality of the stuff, there’s always a lot of stuff happening, whether it’s Vikings jumping over castle walls like bearded kangaroos or Eirik retrieving a big black horn from a wall made out of writhing women covered in gold paint. There are big fights, and weird visuals, and kind of a lot of exposition, but still. A lot of shit definitely happens in this movie.
Also Jon Foo is pretty good. In fact, the fights in this thing are a lot of fun. Foo runs around flipping and kicking and really giving it some gusto, and everyone else does their best as well, although not quite as well. But still — the fights are fast-paced, crazy stuff happens, Thor wallops the living hell out of people with his hammer, people get shot with arrows, different characters have visibly different fighting styles … they’re really not half bad!
How bad is it really?
It could actually be pretty good, if it weren’t for the terribly dull and po-faced acting. In fact, if this movie were at all funny, it would be a legitimately good bad film. But every time it goes for stirring heroism, it ends up falling flat, and you just hate Eirik and never want to see him hunt a bear with his shirt off ever again.
Because, believe me, when Eirik is boring, he’s really boring. And Brynna is super boring. And Eirik + Brynna is just about the most boring thing on God’s earth, except perhaps some random Viking you don’t care about telling you about his backstory.
Best bit (if such there is)?
- Eirik descends into Hel, which is this weird green-lit world full of glowing crystals and zombies that looks like a Peter Davison episode of Doctor Who.
- Freyr does a last-minute heel turn and reveals that he manipulated Eirik all along to get him to retrieve the horn, which only he could do, and now Freyr’s gonna cover all the lands in a second darkness or whatever, and then Alcuin the wizard pops up to mention that he’s known the whole time and switched the horn for a fake one like thirty minutes previously.
- Jon Foo kicking dudes.
What’s up with…?
- Eirik’s quest? It’s like … it’s like double Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not only was the horn perfectly safe where it was, Frey and Thor would never have got it without Eirik. And he didn’t even fix the problem — Alcuin did. And Brynna died, along with like six other people. So in fact the whole thing was completely for nothing and the world would have been much better off if Eirik had just stayed home wrestling bears.
- Freyja? She saves Eirik’s life because she loves him, but then he never thinks about or mentions her again until he’s about to get off with Brynna. Then she turns up in his mirror for him to be all wracked with guilt at, but she gives him a hall pass and he forgets all about her again. She’s 10 minutes of the movie that could have been taken right out as long as some other reason Eirik could enter Helheim could have been ginned up.
- The weather? Eirik is ass-deep in snow when he hunts the bear, but it’s all green and springy when he gets home. And no matter how cold it is, Brynna rocks her sports bra whenever she can. Eirik’s outfit of sleeves but no shirt is particularly bizarre.
- The ripoff scenes? Eirik confronts Thor, who literally tells him that he’s his father and that together they can rule etc., etc. (Oddly, this is more tightly plotted than The Empire Strikes Back, because the fact that Thor is Eirik’s dad is immediately relevant to the action.) And then afterward, they do a shitty, inept, noncommittal version of the funeral scene from The 13th Warrior.
Production values: Oh dear me no – 15.
Dialogue and performances: Boring and inept – 18.
Plot and execution: Derivative and/or crazy – 16.
Randomness: Sensible in the outline, but the devil’s in the deails – 14.
Waste of potential: Fantasy Viking Magnificent Seven? That’s a solid B+ – 14.