This movie doesn’t quite break down the doors of Valhalla!
If you’re looking for something along the lines of The Eagle, Centurion, or King Arthur, then walk away now. Those three movies are fairly straight-forward formulaic period pieces that provide a combination of battlefield heroics, entertainment and gore. All are relatively pleasurable in their own way, but none rise to standards worthy of a seat in Valhalla.
This movie, Hammer of the Gods, more closely resembles the highly existential and contemplative Valhalla Rising. Now, if you haven’t seen Valhalla Rising, by all means, go and watch that first. Valhalla Rising is a highly underrated film, full of visceral imagery and an ethereal ambience. It is also a very polarizing, love it or a hate it, movie. Nevertheless, it is well worth the adventure. Enough of this Viking bragging, let’s get back to Hammer of the Gods.
The story in Hammer itself seems simple enough. A group of Saxon warriors are attempting to fight off invading Vikings. Oh, wait, that’s not it. It’s the other way around, a dying Viking king sends his son, Steinar (Charlie Bewley) to find his half-brother (Hakan, played by Elliot Cowan), who is believed to bet the savior of the tribe! Let’s throw historical accuracy aside (because it really should have been the other way around), and take this movie for what it is – an Anglo-Saxon/Viking era quest flick.
It is nicely shot and well enough acted, but still, there is something lacking. The sets, costumes and overall feel of the movie, create a verisimilitude that is believable enough to take for what it is. However, the simplicity of the movie is not what it seems. Yes, the basic plot, the quest is set in motion, but writer Matthew Read and director Farren Blackburn (how’s that for a Viking name?) would like us to believe there is something more.
The simple quest turns into much more than a search for Steinar’s brother. It becomes a quest for the age old questions of life, death, family and loyalty. Hammer makes an attempt to cross from a mainstream battlefield epic into something more, but it never quite finds is way as either one. It attempts, but sorely lacks the existential aesthetic of Valhalla Rising, but it strays from the formula too much to interest a mainstream audience. Hammer builds toward a confrontation that attempts to be something grand and epic, but is ultimately disappointing and underplayed. What should be a grand battle appears more like a no holds barred mixed martial arts Viking cage fight.
After a first viewing, I am still trying to decide if Hammer of the Gods is an ambitious film that misses the target, or is it just simply lacking.
Review by Gordon Shelly, special to Influx Magazine