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HAMMER OF THE GODS (2013)

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HAMMER OF THE GODS (2013)

Friday, 22 November 2013 01:24

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I have a confession to make. Although I am completely obsessed with movies, I DO have other hobbies, including sewing, armor-making, and other costume-creation arts. As such, I'll often find myself watching movies for the specific purpose of examining the character's outfits so I can attempt to replicate them later. This is one reason why I've been watching so damn many historical action movies lately, so I can look at the cool period outfits and get inspired. My choice to watch Hammer of the Gods was initially a "costume inspiration" movie, but by the end it was a great "being a badass manly Viking inspiration" movie as well, and even people who aren't interested in checking out new riveting patterns for their brigandine will definitely enjoy it.

      Hammer of the Gods takes place in Britain some time in the 9th century, as the Vikings and local Saxons are embroiled in a long, brutal war for territory. The Viking king is on the verge of death, and dispatches his young son Steinar to locate his older brother Hakon, a brutal warrior who "went native" years ago in Saxon territory. Steinar and his warrior buddies, each one more stabby than the last, must cut a path through Britain in what's basically a Norse adaptation of Heart of Darkness. In other words, it's the less classy but much more fun version of Apocalypse Now.

 Never get out of the dragon-headed longship... Absolutely goddamn right!

 

Life of the Part (Positives):

     Though a central theme of reason vs. superstitious tradition often drives conflicts between the heroes, it really only serves to show how the heroic and principled Steinar is a bit more "civilized" than those he does battle with, despite the movie being unashamedly focused on intense hack-and-slash. The crew of Vikings regularly deliver more ass-kicking than Sleipnir at a Tae-Kwon-Do class*, and although the editing for the fight scenes is a little choppy and "whip-around-y," the hits are still hard and satisfying, and some of the intricate swordsmanship is quite impressive. It's a bit strange to watch Dark Age people sword-fighting to a dubstep soundtrack, but it doesn't pull you out of the moment. Since it's a lower-budget film, the fights are all skirmishes with only ten people or so, rather than epic, massed battles, but that allows us to get in close and enjoy the gritty details.

*Pictured: Sleipnir, the eight-legged steed of Odin. See, it's funny because he had a lot of legs.

 

     "Gritty" is a good word in general for this film, as it's one of those movies where the characters spend much of their time dirty, bloodied, and struggling through injuries against overwhelming odds, with an overall atmosphere that is consistently foreboding and dark (read: typical English weather). There are some scenic vistas on display, though, and the movie often takes a breather from the combat scenes by showcasing a beautiful valley or mountain range. Almost all the wide shots have lightning storms going on in the background (doubtlessly added in post), and I’m not sure if the constant storms were meant to symbolize something or just look cool. Maybe we can just assume that the story is being told like one of the great Viking sagas of yore, with all the badass elements turned up to 11.

 

 Potential Hangovers (Negatives):

     Though a dark, gritty atmosphere adds to the intensity of the action, sometimes the movie is simply dark, as in impossible to see. It’s a really cool look to have sequences in a cavern lit only by torchlight, don’t get me wrong, but some fight scenes are muddied by a lack of lighting, and it can sometimes be difficult to tell which huge bearded guy is the one talking at any given moment, since we literally can’t see their faces. This general obscurity applies to the motivations of the characters, as well, in several dramatic situations where a bit too much goes unspoken. You can see on the actor’s faces that the characters understand and accept what’s going on, but the audience isn’t always in on it.

     One other small weakness is that the final act is a bit less intense, compared to the highly kinetic action scenes earlier in the film, and the ending is somewhat abrupt. The final action sequence is a sort of ritual duel vs. the main villain, which basically devolves into a Viking bare-knuckle boxing match. Although it’s cool to have the hero stripped of his armor and weapons, going primitive, descending into the heart of darkness, and all that jazz, said heart is once again too dark to see in! The choreography is good, but it’s impossible to tell who’s hitting whom half the time - much of the fight just looks like two sides of beef being swung into each other. It’s not a bad scene, just a slight let-down after all the more intricate combat earlier on, and when the movie ends on a freeze-frame of a massive battle getting underway, it really feels like a shame that they didn’t have the budget to show us the whole thing.

 Remember, guys, it's not gay if you're wearing woad paint!

 

Atmosphere (Man Cave, Casual Gathering, House Party):

     Like any good action movie, Hammer of the Gods is an experience meant for beer-quaffing and fist-pumping. Though it has some deeper ideas at play and a genuinely good character arc, it's primarily a beating-dudes-up movie and would be enjoyed in any atmosphere that's improved by some vicarious adrenaline. Incidentally, the outfits on display ARE pretty cool, too, though you can tell that historical accuracy was not their intention. I'm pretty sure that 9th-century Saxon knights never ACTUALLY dressed like BDSM ninjas, but hey, whatever looks cool...

+ Well-choreographed, high-intensity combat, and lots of it

+ Great moody atmosphere

+ Suprising depth of character for an action movie, though it's easy to miss

- Visual composition is often unclear

- Ending is a slight letdown compared to all the badassery throughout the rest of the movie

 

Drinking Game Suggestions:

~ Drink whenever the gods, Valhalla, or Christ are mentioned

~ Drink for each wound inflicted (or for each killing blow, for beginners)

~ Drink whenever the party members have an argument about something

~ During the arm-wrestling scene, take a shot each time Steinar does

~ DRUNKEN VIKING MODE: Take a shot whenever someone mentions bad luck or says that something is "an omen"

Read 972 times Last modified on Friday, 22 November 2013 03:27

About Us

Tanked Matinee is the place to go for good drinking movies. What do we mean by that? Simply speaking, we evaluate and recommend entertainment media based on how much fun it is to watch with friends on the sofa and a cold beer in hand.

Everyone knows "The Godfather" is a great movie, but is it as great to drink with as "Roadhouse?" We can appreciate "Citizen Kane" as a masterpiece of cinema, but is it as good a centerpiece for your party as "Santa Clause Conquers the Martians?"

Tanked Matinee appreciates film as art, but when you're kicking back on Friday night with a tall Rum & Coke, you're not looking for art, man, you want to be entertained. We're here to recommend the best movies for your night in, whether it's a big party, small get-together, or just a quiet night alone with a bottle of wine or three.

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