VIKINGDOM [Stream This? Review]

Stream This? is a feature devoted to exploring and reviewing some of the lesser known and often-times weirder films that can be found on various streaming services. Today, Matt Morrison examines the 2013 action film Vikingdom.

I won a copy of this film several years ago at a convention as a prize for participating in some sort of trivia contest, yet I only just got around to watching it recently. Vikingdom caught my attention due to its pun-ishing title, the fact that I enjoy most things Viking-related and the fact that it starred Dominic Purcell, whose work as Mick Rory on Legends of Tomorrow I’ve enjoyed immensely. My hopes weren’t high for this movie and my low expectations were met, yet there was enough right with this film for me to decide that I like it unironically.

The film opens as the god of thunder, Thor (Conan Stevens), has taken on human flesh to manifest on Midgard. Thor is displeased that his people are abandoning the worship of the Norse pantheon in favor of Christianity, and has decided to start putting the fear of Thor into his former followers with an army of raiders. Thor also seeks several magic artifacts that, combined with his hammer Mjölnir, will allow him to open the gates to Helheim and Asgard, unleashing a wave of destruction that will kill humanity.

Midgard’s only hope lies with Elric Bloodletter (Dominic Purcell); a mighty king and leader of men, whose bravery was such that it won him the favor of the love goddess Freya (Tegan Moss) and inspired her to bring him back from Midgard to fight again when he fell in battle. It is this rare quality of having died and returned from death that make Elric uniquely qualified to seek the Horn of Helheim; the one thing that might stop Thor’s rampage. Joining up with his sword-brother Sven (Craig Fairbrass), Elric assembles a crew of misfits including a martial artist named Yang (Jonathan Patrick Foo) and a beautiful boat captain out to prove she’s the equal of any man (Natassia Malthe) to go on a quest to retrieve the Horn and stop Thor’s army.

If you’re the pedantic sort who gets hung up on historical accuracy, Vikingdom is not for you. While it is not wholly impossible for a Chinese martial artist to wind up in medieval Scandinavia, it does seem a bit unlikely. The accents of the cast vary wildly and nobody can seem to agree on how to pronounce Elric’s name. Likewise, this is the sort of action movie where all the men wax their chests and the one female Viking goes into battle clad in a sports bra and leather trousers, showing no adverse reaction to freezing cold waters or the CGI snow. Throw in the fact that there’s some incredibly obvious green-screen work for the backgrounds and everything is so desaturated you won’t believe this isn’t a Zack Snyder film and there’s a lot about this movie that doesn’t work visually.

That being said, Vikingdom works more often than not. The script by James Coyne is fairly clever and shows a better grasp of Norse mythology than most screenplays of its kind. It’s a novelty to see Thor presented as the red-haired loose-canon he was in most of the myths and I have to give props to any movie that depicts draugr and kelpies. It does, however, suffer a bit in the third act with some twists that don’t quite work and there are a few logic problems.

For instance, it’s never explained why Freya brought Elric back to life in the first place, since doing so denied them any chance of ever being together in the afterlife and Elric died a clean and noble death; a big deal in Viking culture. I think it works, however, if one considers that Freya knew what Thor was planning and the only way to stop him later required a warrior who could enter Helheim.

This leads to one of the film’s better written, yet most oddly executed scenes, in which Freya speaks to Elric in a reflection, taking the place of Brynna as she attempts to seduce Elric, pleading with her lost love to accept what love he can find in his new life in memory of her, as she can only appear to him now in the image of women who love him. It’s a neat idea, but inspires a comic moment when Elric seems to be trying to watch the image of Freya kissing him in the mirror while still kissing Brynna.

Another aspect of Vikingdom that works is the acting. Dominic Purcell is a suitably stoic Elric, who I couldn’t help but imagine playing King Conan in another life. Natassia Malthe is an engaging heroine who manages to breathe life into what might have otherwise been the cliche woman warrior with a chip on her shoulder. Craig Fairbrass and Jonathan Patrick Foo add some amusing comic business into what might have otherwise been static characters. And Conan Stevens is suitably menacing as Thor.

Is Vikingdom great cinema? No, but it isn’t trying to be. Its a simple action movie that manages to be a cut above the rest, thanks to an interesting script that defies convention and a solid ensemble that overcomes the erratic direction. It’s worth checking out if you’re fan of any of these actors, like tales of daring-do or want a good cheesy action movie that can be made fun of.

Vikingdom is currently streamable through TubiTV.

rating 4

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