The poor vikings haven’t been blessed with the best of luck in cinema – with very few worthy attempts at depicting their culture and heritage up on the big screen. Unfortunately, to all you vikings out there, you’re going to have to wait just that little bit longer for something special, as Farren Blackburn’s ambitious period piece Hammer of the Gods fails to impress. To be completely honest, it’s just a lot of blokes wearing silly outfits and fighting in fields, really.
We follow the courageous journey of Steinar (Charlie Bewley), who embarks on a spirited mission set by his dying father (James Cosmo) to reconnect with his long lost brother Hakan (Elliot Cowan) and persuade him to return home and restore order to the kingdom, and provide a glimmer of hope to the downhearted people who are in desperate need of a new king. However as Steinar prowls the treacherous British landscape, it seems this journey may throw up one or two surprises.
Though one must consider the lack of resources available to Blackburn, regrettably the modest budget infects this piece substantially. That said, relying on cliches and stereotypes of the genre, is not something that you necessarily need money to avoid, as a film that simply doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Though there are family elements at the crux of this tale, it’s merely just another hackneyed representation, with blood, guts and axe-wielding maniacs. The choreography is uninspiring too – which draws more attention to the lacklustre narrative, which leaves a lot to be desired.
The acting on the whole certainly won’t blow you away, but then again it’s far from disappointing. Melodramatic it may be, but such an approach suits the genre at hand, and the actors, in their defence, have not been given the strongest story to deal with. It’s a surprise that is the case, as writer Matthew Read supplied material to the screenplay for Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising – yet it’s safe to say he has failed to match his previous efforts this time around. Of the performances, Theo Barklem-Briggs playing the hapless Vali, stands out, with an intrinsic likeability and fragility that brings some heart to a film otherwise lacking in depth and emotion. On the other hand sadly, Bewley doesn’t quite carry the film as the lead role should – lacking in that natural fervour such a role requires.
Nonetheless, for all of its shortcomings, you do have to commend Blackburn for giving it a go, as British filmmakers should be encouraged to attempt such high-concept genre movies of this ilk. That said, he had the opportunity here with Hammer of the Gods to make something unique and intriguing, yet in turn he sticks to archetypal cinematic formula, avoiding any real risks and lacking in distinct innovation.