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  Vikingdom Return of the King
Year: 2013
Director: Yusry Abd Halim
Stars: Dominic Purcell, Jesse Moss, Natassia Malthe, Conan Stevens, Craig Fairbrass, Jon Foo, Patrick Murray, Ron Smoorenburg, Tegan Moss, Bruce Blain, Byron Gibson, Anteo Quintavalle, Damian Mavis, Trevor Coppola, John Reynolds
Genre: Weirdo, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Viking king Eirick the Bloodletter (Dominic Purcell) meets his death in battle only to be resurrected by his lover, the Norse goddess Freya (Tegan Moss). Abandoning the throne to his brother, Eirick leads a life in seclusion as a humble woodcutter. Some years later, Frey (Jesse Moss), Freya's godly brother, enlists Eirick on an epic quest to foil errant thunder god Thor (Conan Stevens) who has assumed mortal form to halt the spread of Christianity and ensure the gods of Asgard rule the world forever. Only Eirick, an "undead", can assemble the three secluded mystical artifacts needed to defeat him.

A Malaysian movie made in English starring an Australian about the Norse warriors of legend? Er, okay. Vikings seem to make a comeback every ten years or so judging from the acclaim bestowed upon the History Channel's recent television series Vikings, although it is the spectre of Zach Snyder's Spartan epic 300 (2006) that hangs most heavily over Vikingdom. Hyper-bombastic and CGI stylized this ambitious but uneven fantasy epic boasts a familiar line in shouty performances and videogame action straining after the same level of ├╝ber macho gravitas. It is ridiculous but then no more so than big budget nonsense like 300: Rise of an Empire (2014) only on a more modest scale. Malaysian filmmaker Yusry Abd Halim started out as a visual effects supervisor in his native land before moving on to direct ambitious effects laden fare like the superhero parody Cicak Man (2006) and another historical adventure Clash of Empires (2011).

Vikingdom appears to have been shot almost entirely against a green screen backdrop. Halim's background ensures the film remains visually impressive for a low budget DTV feature. He clearly knows his way around an arresting action sequence but the cartoon tone is often laughable with atrocious dialogue, appalling performances and barely a moment passing without big burly bearded blokes growling and grimacing like pro-wrestlers. "I'm a Viking, first and foremost", snarls British hard man Craig Fairbrass, shortly before he happily abandons his wife and child to go adventuring with Eirick. Thereafter he keeps dropping anachronistic f-bombs seemingly every five minutes. Promotional material cites Norse poems and legends as the primary influence but though the film delivers a portrait of thunder god Thor with fiery hair and temper to match that is more accurate than the Marvel Comics interpretation, one suspects Halim largely looked elsewhere for inspiration. Especially given Vikingdom lifts its climactic plot twist from The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and story structure from Ray Harryhausen's celebrated mythological epic Jason and the Argonauts (1963).

For his quest Eirick assembles the strangest collection of anachronistic accents this side of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). DTV staple Natassia Malthe enlivens proceedings considerably as Brynna, a fearsome warrior woman who aside from being easy on the eyes proves an expert sailor, archer and all-round badass. Martial arts expert Jon Foo is similarly engaging as, er, a martial arts expert from (one assumes) China whose prowess does not explain why when our heroes first meet him he has been enslaved by a curiously Scottish-accented Norse woodcutter. Malthe and Foo (who has a funny one-liner undercutting Eirick's would-be rousing speech) land most of the memorable moments largely because they sport the peppiest personalities. By contrast it is hard to care when the rest of their bearded anonymous co-stars start to bite the dust one by one. More worryingly, lacklustre lead Dominic Purcell appears content to let his pecs do the acting. He exhibits not one flicker of emotion even when confronting his zombie father (John Reynolds) in hell. Purcell has been circling the DTV waters for some time now after the brief popularity of his TV show Prison Break failed to catapult him on to big league stardom following his turn as one of the worst screen Draculas in recent years in Blade: Trinity (2004).

Halim stages one memorably surreal sequence wherein Eirick swims underwater past an aquatic ballet of white horses and finds himself in a mystical cave complete with sleeping dragon, zombie hordes and a living wall made entirely out of beautiful gold painted women. Brilliantly realized the sequence evokes such delirious fare as the deranged Shaw Brothers musical fantasy Heaven & Hell (1978) or Mario Bava's seminal sword and sandal saga Hercules in the Haunted World (1961). Following this high point Vikingdom loses momentum descending into a familiar capture and escape arc. While the climactic battle serves up a fair share of spectacle, like the bulk of the film it fails to engage on an emotional level.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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