Oseberg Viking ship was an extraordinary archaeological find. It remains one of
the best preserved vessels, but it has not exactly boosted the reputation of
Viking nautical engineering, considering two modern facsimiles have proved
unseaworthy. Nevertheless, an absent-minded archaeologist is convinced the
Oseberg ship ventured all the way up to Norway’s Finnmark region. He also
believes they witnessed something that inspired the apocalyptic Norse myths, so
naturally he drags his bratty kids along to investigate. They will definitely
find something in Mikkel Brænne Sandemose’s
Ragnarok (trailer here), which launches on VOD today.
Viking Ship Museum display of the Oseberg craft is quite dramatic.
Unfortunately, the widower-father Sigurd Svendsen has essentially talked
himself out of a job there with all his crazy theories. However, when his reckless
co-worker Allan discovers a corroborating artifact, Svendsen packs up his
petulant daughter Ragnhild and devoted son Brage to spend their summer vacation
scouring for more runes in exciting Finnmark.
Ragnhild is not too thrilled about these plans, but the spectacular scenery
briefly shuts her up. They quickly meet up with Elizabeth, Allan’s “cool chick”
colleague, and their hard drinking guide Leif, who is clearly just itching to
yell “throw me the idol and I’ll throw you the whip.” There are headed towards
Odin’s Eye, an island in the middle of former Soviet border outpost, where viewers
know Queen Åsa’s father met with a painful death centuries ago in the prologue.
Could there be some truth to the legend of the Midgard serpent Jörmungandr?
That might explain why there’s a snake on the poster.
one of the best things about Ragnarok is
the setting. The suspiciously deserted Soviet military base is pretty creepy
and the Odin’s Eye isle is worthy of a Peter Jackson Tolkien movie. Unfortunately,
the creature effects are completely lacking the awe factor. Worse still is all
the Svendsen family drama we have to sit through.
Pål Sverre Hagen is Norway’s go-to actor for adventurous academics,
following-up his portrayal of Thor Heyerdahl in the Oscar nominated Kon-Tiki with his turn as Svendsen. He
is appealing earnest as the naïve archaeologist and he develops some pleasantly
flirtatious chemistry with Sofia Helin’s hip and sporty Elizabeth. However, the
kids are like fingernails on a blackboard.
Given the success of Marvel’s Thor franchise and
History Channel’s Vikings, it is not surprising
Norse mythology is getting a look-see from more filmmakers. Sandemose certainly
proves fjords are strikingly cinematic, but he never fully capitalizes on the
Ragnarok mythos or the Oseberg backstory. Instead, he concentrates on emulating
the most annoying parts of Jurassic Park.
There are moments of promise in Ragnarok,
but it never comes together, at least not for reasonably adult audiences.
Nevertheless, it is now available for Norse mythology fans to try on VOD from
Magnolia/Magnet. It also opens theatrically next Friday (8/22) in Santa Fe at
the Jean Cocteau Cinema.
Labels: Monster movies, Scandinavian Cinema, Viking movies