13 Oct 2013

Hammer of the Gods or why do I keep doing this to myself

I like a good adventure story, a combination of excitement and drama to fire up the testosterone is great.  I also like fantasy and historical stories, I have  particularly enjoyed the History Channel's series Vikings and I can't wait for season 2.

Good Telly
Squeaky, my  fiance's daughter, has been learning to scuba dive recently and this has given me free time to watch TV and movies which the girls would not normally like. While looking for such entertainment I came across  Hammer of the Gods, and I noted that the cast includes Clive Standen who plays Rollo in Vikings. But I was apprehensive as most movies about Vikings are garbage.  Erik the Viking  and the 13th Warrior are fun, but mostly movies about the Norsemen or Vikings are poorly written, poorly choreographed excuses for fur bikinis and grunting. Even that makes them sound more entertaining than they are.

Which brings us to Hammer of the Gods.

Normally this is where I provide a synopsis however this movie doesn't deserve one.

Hammer of the Gods starts off with the premise that King Bagsecg of the Vikings is losing his grip on Britain and has sent his son Steiner for re-enforcements.  Steiner arrives in Britain on a long ship and is met by some Saxon warriors. The combat that follows isn't the worse I have seen, but the choreography was certainly average. While passable for a film of this budget, I suspect people that know or appreciate good sword play may be very disappointed.

This fight scene sets up the central characters; The berserker Grim, The hero Hagen(Clive Standen), The pious pagan Jokul and Prince Steiner( Charlie Bewley) doing his best Travis Fimmel impersonation. After the Norsemen butcher the Saxon warriors, Prince Steiner gazes over the sea slowly filling with Viking longboats and CGI lightning.
From left to right Jokul, Grim, Prince Steiner and Hagan.
The warriors travel to King Bagsecg's camp avoiding more CGI lightning,  where they find that the king is dying.  Bagsecg's other son Harald meets Steiner and scolds him for bringing only six men. Apparently the long ships we saw earlier were also CGI. The King (the great James Cosmo) orders his son Steiner to kill his half brother Vali because he would not fight.
James Cosmo
Steiner refuses because he made Vali give an oath that he would not fight without him. Harald offers to kill Vali, but Bagsecg seems disgusted with all his sons and orders them all out except for Steiner. The King tells Steiner that none of his sons are worthy of his crown, except for one. The King orders Steiner to find Hakon, Steiner's older brother who was exiled years ago for reasons unknown.

Steiner and his companions ride off amidst the CGI lightning to find Ivar the Boneless who knows where Hakon is. As they camp Vali is caught sneaking into the camp with the news that Harald was making a deal with the Saxon army.  Despite Jokul warning Steiner that Valis arrival is a bad omens the companions venture on to find Ivar

In history Ivar the boneless is one of the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok, who is the central character of  Vikings. In this story he was banished from King Bagsecgs army for being  'rapy' with boys. Oh right so its not that historical then?  OK sure whatever lets move on.

Ivar will tell Steiner where his older brother is if he enters a peculiar competition. Steiner has three chances to bet Ivar in an arm wrestling competition. Each time he fails he has to take a drugged drink, and if he fails all three times Ivar gets to take him like a woman for the night.  Now this appears is taken directly from the computer game  Fallout2  and an interesting and uncomfortable scene, but an interesting choice for this sort of movie.

Steiner defeats Ivar with the use of Jokuls magic snake belt. And no that is not a euphemism. Jokul has a metal belt in the design of a snake which Steiner, oh forget it.

The companions now joined by Mr Rapey and his servant Agnes (Alexandra Dowling who you may have seen recently in Games of Thrones as Roslin Frey, who married Edmure Tully at the red wedding). 

So far so average. 

And then it all changed. The companions get ambushed by a bunch of masked baddies and Grim dies. It was at this stage I had the uncomfortable feeling that this Viking film was about to got to Hel (get it?  sigh never mind). The action was confused and as it takes place in the woods there is almost a cheesy horror feel about it. 

The survivors make camp where Hagan finds a Saxon coin dropped by Vali. Pretty much everyone hates Vali except for Steiner. Even Ivar doesn't fancy him. Hagan wants him gone, but Steiner is desperate to protect his little brother. But before this resolved the masked bandeetoes return on horseback and take them all hostage. All except little Agnes who hid.  It turns out the bandeetoes are Saxons and they offer Steiner a deal, which he rejects. Agnes rescues him and he rescues the others including Vali who was just about to convert to Christianity.
Ray Ramanos new project "Everybody hates Vali"
From here on in the companions are methodically killed off in a highly clumsy fashion. Eventually only Steiner Vali and Agnes remain to find Hakon, and they do in a cave. Apparently Hakon is now the king of the Troll-Pict people. But that doesn't deter Steiner from his mission and he offers Hakon the crown, and in return Hakon reveals to Steiner that the reason he was banished is because his girl friend is his mother. Yes Hakon is dating Steiner's mother, who is also Hakon's mother. 

But it only when Hakon kills Vali (who had just joined his weird cult) that Steiner gets annoyed and they fight.  Steiner kills he oedipal brother, then while he is it at it he kills his mum. Then he returns to his fathers camp with Agnes, kills Harold and takes the crown.

I do get what writer Matthew Read was trying to do and say. The whole story is a set up for King Bagsecg to turn his soft hearted son into a king, while ridding himself of his other son and ex wife. Good, great even. That concept is a good Nordic saga right there. But the execution was very poor. The whole film was derivative of the success of the TV series Vikings, but with little of the style.

Part of the story was in a foreign language, Welsh, or old English perhaps, but without subtitles it may as well be in Greek. I think they took some chances with the movie to try and distinguish it despite it's budget, but I think maybe they did too much. Some interesting elements, but I think it was too derivative and too poorly executed.  Making Hakon some sort of crazy cult leader  was weird and disjointed. The lack of subtitles was distracting and a little boring.

A good idea but poorly executed

3 disappointed Monkeys.

1 comment:

  1. В отличии от ''Vikings'' ''HOTG'' -это исторический фильм в плане изображения времени и периода в истории.