Vikings versus Native Americans. What’s not to like about that idea? Well, in principle nothing at all. It’s a fun concept that has a lot of scope going for it. The warlike, comparatively advanced vikings against the Natives, a group tied to the land (not literally). It’s a great starting point for an underdog story, the unprepared and ill equipped Natives having to fight back against an otherwise superior force. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Brace yourself for an unpleasant surprise. It isn’t.
Karl Urban is our lead, a white man who was taken in by the Natives as a child and is originally of Viking stock. His new people call him Ghost – terribly flattering. He has a bit of a thing for Starfire (Moon Bloodgood, who’s not of Native American origin. Just saying) but there’s hostility from the tribe because he’s not one of them. Well duh. Whose idea was it to take him in in the first place?
Soon after this introduction, ships arrive off the coast and bring with them a vast swarth of vikings. Ghost is the only survivor of an attack on his settlement and sets off to hide himself away, knowing the Vikings are using him as their Pathfinder – letting him lead them to the next settlement.
And, because there wouldn’t be a film otherwise, he’s better at being a viking than they are. Go figure. The one man army trope is played out to full effect, leading up to the Natives resorting to guerrilla warfare tactics against their superior enemy. Which er, doesn’t really pan out all too well for them. Stands to reason, really. If only they’d listened…
The DVD transfer is far too dark and oversaturated for anything to be seen properly. It seems that, to give the film a distinctive visual style, they decided to put filters on everything for the sake of it.
Likewise, when it comes to the action sequences the camera is far too close to the action and it’s difficult to fully appreciate the effort that has gone into choreographing them. We don’t need to be right in on the action to get a feeling for it. Sometimes I wish action directors – Michael Bay included – would get this into their heads. Pan out just a little bit, for all our sakes.
Still, Karl Urban is always good value for money, and Moon Bloodgood, despite being in the damsel in distress role is decent. The best value for money comes in the form of Clancy Brown and his big viking villain Gunnar. He’s not a patch on Brown’s earlier role as The Kurgan in Highlander, but it’s the only real entertainment you’ll get from this turgid mess.
It’s a real shame because the story is a great idea. The costume designs are impressive and the gore is top notch. It just falls flat in almost every other respect. Mindless, dumb and lacking in depth pretty much sums it up. I would however recommend checking out the Norwegian film this is adapted from, Nils Gaup’s Ofela. Much better.