2013 – R – Magnet
Have you ever been watching an epic medieval battle, metal swords clashing against each other as barbaric men snarl at each other with their faces caked in blood and wondered what it would sound like if it were accompanied by dub step music? And then if they took that same fight scene and slowed it down and sped it up at odd intervals like some dance club music video? How about a paper thin plot that is only held together with carnage? Then Hammer of the Gods is for you!
I should be more fair. There is a little more content to Hammer of the Gods than that, but not too much more. The films opens up in Viking Britain, 871 AD, although after that first battle, you’ll be wondering if it’s some sort of timeless world, like Middle Earth. During a violent battle with some farmers (who I wished rode tractors instead of horses), we are introduced to our ‘heroes’ with title cards, very similar to the last TMNT movie. Unnecessary, but um… cool? I need to mention that for Vikings, these guys have nicely trimmed or flowing hair with perfectly shaved stubble. Who knew Vikings cared so much about current fashion trends in GQ? After the slaughter, our protagonist Steinar receives word that his father is dying. Steinar returns to their base… camp… (?) where his brother Harald believes he will become King, but their father’s parenting style is similar to that of a sociopathic sadist. So he sends Steinar out to find a King, his other brother Hakar who was banished years ago for reasons we will get into later.
Accompanying him along his journey is his best friend Hagan, the spiritual Jokul and the lovable oaf, Grim. They are quickly followed by Steinar’s wimpy half brother Vali who now tags along for the rest of the journey. Good, all the adventure stereotypes are here and now the quest can begin… but, not before a pointless battle! Within what seems like moments, they come across a group of men stoning a woman tied to a post. They quickly overcome their adversaries faster than Lindsay Lohan gets sent to rehab, freeing the woman only to have Grim kill her a moment later and they move on. You think a scene like this would say something about their individuality or perhaps the contrast of the time period and the struggles they go through in order to keep their humanity, but nope. Who needs that when you can yell and swing a sword over house music?
Moving further along, the group realizes they need they aid of a brute warrior, Ivar, who will help them find Hakar. Ivar use to fight alongside Hakar, but was dismissed after his ‘interest’ in boys. But Ivar will only help them if Steinar can defeat him in the manliest game on Earth known simply as arm wrestling! I guess the filmmakers saw Over the Top and thought, “Oh, we need to do that, but with swords!” There is a catch to the game, however: If Steinar cannot defeat Ivar within three tries, he will be sodomized. Oh and after each try, he has to take a drink from a mushroom spiked drink. Quickly, let’s recap our ‘heroes’: A war hungry prince, a wienie half brother, an insane king, a pedophile and a group of friends defined by one vague characteristic. Yup, that’s who you’re rooting for in this movie. Leaves you feeling clean. Needless to say, Steinar defeats Ivar and he joins their group, bringing along his slave girl (I dunno, it’s really unclear what her role is). But upon returning to their horses they left earlier with Vali, they find a horse head hanging from the tree and Vali totally unscathed. Could he be in cahoots with the enemy?
Enough thinking or developing plot, we need a battle! They are surrounded and ambushed while trolloping through the forest, claiming their first casualty, Grim. Oh, but he had two other dimensions we didn’t explore. We will also remember him for being stupid, hot headed and ranting about his venereal diseases and wisely saying, “RAAHHHHH!” or “GRRR!” The group begins to suspect foul play from Vali, accusing him to be a traitor. Before they can come to any conclusions, their bickering is interrupted by, you guessed it, more fighting! Some hacking and slashing later, the group flees only to be cornered and over powered. They are taken captive and told they need to covert and accept god. So wait, now this film is religious and not superstitious? Who knows, but all we know is Vali willingly surrendered himself and was ready to convert to avoid any sort of conflict, which the group doesn’t take to kindly to. With the help of Astrid, Steiner escapes and frees his friends, losing Ivar in the process. After locking their captures in a church tower, Hagen confronts Steiner with an ultimatum: Vali is a traitor and if Steiner doesn’t execute him, he will. Seems fair and long overdue. This leads to a duel between the two friends, now rivals, until an unpleasant outcome is reached. Here’s a hint: The person you want to die, doesn’t.
The rest of the crew ventures forward, only to disappear leaving Steinar by his lonesome. He wonders into a cave and is knocked out by the locals who like to paint unknown shapes and squiggles on themselves. It is here where we finally meet his other brother, who has gone mad. But this reunion of brothers calls for a feast! Speaking of, where are his friends..? Well, we do see Vali who has converted again. Maybe later, John Travolta and Tom Cruise will get him to convert to Scientology. No matter, this all boiling down to the main event. Questions will be answered. Will we find out what happened to Steinar’s mother (yes and BLECK!)? Will Steinar be victorious? Will they be painted on like kindergarten finger paintings? What was in the stew? All these in the exciting conclusion!
Throughout the film, there are several ideas or subplots that go absolutely nowhere other than to tether the scenes of grisly gore and death together, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It feels as if maybe it would’ve worked better as a mini series rather than rush through and focus on the battles, as entertaining as they are. The acting is actually pretty top notch, though, and all the characters were believable, as unrelatable as they were. Also, the music seemed extremely out of place, with guitar stings and dub step stabbing at your ear like a broad sword. I almost want to mute my TV… with the plague.
Having said all of that, I still would recommend the film and why not? It’s a bloody good time. If you’re not looking for something deep, like Lord of the Rings, but you still want some good old fashioned Viking sword slaying, then Hammer of the Gods is a prime choice. Mount your steed and curse your opponent’s god! Or just pick up your DVD or Blu-ray copy from Magnet, like a normal person. This isn’t the medieval times!
For Valhalla and The Lost Highway!