Hammer of the Gods
dir. by Farren Blackburn (Vertigo Films, 2013)
Steinar must travel to find the macguffin (his brother) and return to his dying father with it. In doing so he loses his humanity and becomes a hardened warrior fit to be king.
The film opens with a shot of a young boy on a beach. He sees a Viking ship sailing out of the fog, its sail billowing and its oars out. I did not count them, but it looked like about ten or fifteen oars on each side, so a minimum crew of twenty. This being the case, why did only six warriors emerge onto the cliff top to fight the Saxon levies? For that matter, why was the ship obviously under full sail when the oars were being used too? These things jarred at the start, and this sense of wrongness continued when the fight began and I noticed that none of the warriors had a shield and that several of the weapons were blatantly anachronistic. The lack of shields is an issue all the way through the film until the very last scene. Other issues included the ‘Saxons’ dressed like ninjas with skull face masks and the blue-painted cave people at the end. Then there was the ignorance of what a runestone was; Steinar had to ask what it was. Finally, there are few female characters in the film and almost all are completely incidental to the plot. Although advertised as a Viking film set in 870-71, this film quite clearly was not that. In reality it is a fantasy quest film and the setting need not have been England in the ninth century, because the events were quite generic with nothing that made it specifically Viking in nature.
Having got the complaints out of the way, I can address the rest of the film. The plot is minimal, as described above. After the initial direction of the action towards finding the macguffin, things just seemed to roll from one fight to the next with little explanation of who or why things were happening. It reminded me of a highly structured D&D adventure where all travelling is specifically to get the characters to the next plot device / encounter with the baddies. As the film progressed, the pace picked up until the ending, which was reminiscent of Apocalypse Now. Elliot Cowan as Hakan the Ferocious even seemed to be trying to get the look and feel of Brando as Colonel Kurtz. It had a certain inevitability about it from start to finish. At no point did I wonder if Steinar would die or fail in his quest. There was no real tension or even concern for the characters. Instead the momentum of the film kept me watching, helped by the stunning Welsh scenery amid which it was filmed, and the quality of the cinematography which was pretty good. The casting was also reasonably good, with the main characters giving decent performances. One point that tickled me was the use of a smattering of Old English dialogue. That was definitely a plus point.
Overall this film was not a total waste of time. Don’t expect a historically accurate epic, high art or even great cinema, because this film lies firmly in B-movie territory, but, if heroic gore-laden action adventure is your thing and you can accept the thin plot then you may enjoy it.