Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Valhalla Rising

Netflix sez...
2009 NR 93 minutes
After years of slavery, Viking warrior One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen) escapes from his captors and seeks refuge on a Norse ship bound for his homeland. When a storm throws them off course, the crew lands at a mysterious realm inhabited by invisible demons. As the bloodthirsty creatures claim one sailor after another, One-Eye rediscovers his fighting spirit but begins to wonder if they have arrived in Jerusalem or someplace much more sinister.

The 73rd Virgin sez...
Hmmmm. Be forewarned that the Netflix plot synopsis is about 180 degrees off from what actually happens. There are no invisible demons - unless I just wildly missed the mark. There are what you would expect to find if you accidentally went west out of Scotland, rather than southeast. But that hardly matters.

I was confused at first by the Vikings with Scottish accents who would eventually ask our hero if he was with the Clans but figured, hey, maybe there were Viking clans, so I didnt let that bother me. Then I was confused by how an experienced Scottish crusader in a Viking boat could not know that Jerusalem was to the southeast, but this passed as I realized that this Viking boat didnt have any oars (or a mast - although it had lots of rigging), so once they start drifting in the mist on a completely waveless ocean they couldnt do anything but drift (although there is a sun, so they might have known if they were drifting east or west). When they finally reach land, they discover that they do indeed have oars and decide to paddle up a river in a place that looks nothing like Jerusalem and is devoid of Turks. Only then did I realize that this was one long riff on Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Apocalypse Now, Black Robe, Conan the Barbarian, and maybe Le Morte d'Arthur.

Much has been made of the cinematography, but so many of the shots have been digitally intermediated that you can often see a glow following around the actors faces. In some scenes half the face is lighted and half is not. That must have taken 10 seconds or so of technician time to achieve the effect and has nothing to do with cinematography or even good camera work. The soundtrack is the most interesting part, and it seems like the whole movie may have been made so some dude could noodle away at his mixing board throwing in post-industrial noise. But if you're going to overdub the dialog like some Fellini throwback, then at least use Norsemen who don't talk like sheep'erders.

I guess if I wear my snob hat, I sort of like the bits that recall the grimmest parts of the Arthurian legends, and maybe the Priest of Nemi echoes. Mikkelsen is good and the always reliable Gary Lewis does a good warrior priest. Otherwise this seems like blessedly short euro-garbage. 2 out of 5 stars.

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