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Vikingdom (DVD)

Epic Pictures / 2013 / 114 min / NR

The Film:

Sometimes you can tell how a film is going to play out in the first few minutes. This particular movie begins with slow-motion shots of battle and a driving rock score. It looked as though the director was going for an epic Viking movie with all the cliches. But I try to be fair so I opened up to the concept. And while I do brace myself for the possibility of a film being awful, nothing could've prepared me for the sheer ridiculousness of the ludicrous Vikingdom.

Before any real characters are established, we're thrown right into a battle where Thor is the bad guy. I can remember when I first heard about Marvel developing a Thor movie and how terrified I was that the costume and character would just be too goofy. Well, the Thor in this film is everything that can go wrong with the character. With his bright red hair, plastic-looking hammer and a chest plate that looks straight out of a costume store, Thor's presence in this film is more laughable than it is fearful. He seeks to open the portals to heaven and hell by collecting relics. He bursts into an abbey, brutally murders everyone inside, steals the artifact and says he'll make the priest closer to god by crucifying him in the church. To put it mildly, he's not a very subtle villain.

With the world of Vikings threatened, Eirick assembles a group to journey the land and prevent Thor's plans. The ensemble includes an Earth wizard that looks like he has a branch stuck on his back and an Asian martial artist just so we can get some good kicks into the fight scenes. The fight scenes themselves are decently shot, but most of the wide shots involving armies are just ridiculous. This is evident in the opening battle which uses a truck load of obvious computer effects not to duplicate the warriors, but make it appear as though they can leap and attack with increased speed. And there are several moments where computer graphics are brought in as a crutch for everything from blood to stunts.

The sad thing is that there are actually some well-shot and capable fight scenes in this mess. The wide shots of many warriors on the field of battle are actually staged quite well. They feel like they're just the right size for this type of film and choreographed with a little bit of thought behind them. Now why would the director go and soil all this great work with needless CGI? I guess he felt he had to since he was already using it for a host of fantasy elements. We are treated to such lavish spectacles as the land of undead Vikings, a group of golden ladies that seem to blend together and underwater horses (no, not seahorses, actual horses underwater). These scenes are okay for a budgeted fantasy film and we get a lot of these moments with magic and creatures. But with its constant quality, it's really just a whole lot of okay and never really wows. It hardly distracts you from the goofy performances all the actors turn in.

The film apparently cost about $15 million to make. That's a rather surprising number given the overall quality. I can only assume that director Yusry Kru became so giddy at the prospect of making a $15 million epic that he went nuts with the special effects shots. I admire his spirit for wanting to throw all these elaborate visuals at the screen, but he's stretched himself so thin here that it sends this film careening into the bargain bin. It's a real shame considering there could've something genuinely entertaining if he just didn't go hog-wild with the computer graphics and focused more on practical sequences with better acting.

The Disc:

The picture isn't too bad for this kind of release. The widescreen transfer looks decent enough given the abundance of special effects. The 5.1 soundtrack has an okay mix utilizing most of the speakers effectively.

The Extras:

The biggest extra on the disc is a 25 minute featurette on the production with interviews from the cast and crew. You can see there was quite a bit of work put into filming certain scenes in cold climates and underwater. I just wish the filmmakers had enough faith in these shots to not bog them down with forced computer graphics.

Rounding out the disc is a theatrical trailer and a music video for that rocking soundtrack.

Our Say:

Vikingdom aims too high and falls too low for being a fantasy epic. It wants to be that over-the-top action extravaganza with a rocking soundtrack and brutal fights, but just turns into another goofy direct-to-video effort. Unless you really want to see the dorkiest version of Thor ever put to film, I cannot recommend this movie.

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