I will never understand why Hollywood insists on continuing to crank out the basic-ass bible story movies with whitewashed casts, when they could easily tell riveting stories by borrowing tales from Norse Mythology. Save for the “less-than-accurate” portrayals of Thor and Loki, the Norse mythos don’t get nearly enough cinematic love. Luckily for us, director Mikkel Brænne Sandemose gives us a fix of the Viking lore with the creature-feature, RAGNAROK. Ragnarok roughly translates to “final destiny of the gods.” In Norse mythology, Ragnarok was basically the GAME OF THRONES “Red Wedding” but with Viking gods. Despite the misleading title, RAGNAROK was a genuinely fun and family-friendly monster flick.
The story follows an a single father/archaeologist named Sigurd Svendsen that makes new discoveries within the runes found on the Oseberg (a real Viking ship that was somehow preserved in excellent condition) that predicts the possibility of Vikings having traveled farther than what was originally believed. Hoping to discover the truth, Svendsen rounds up his two children and a small archeological team, hoping to find the Viking treasures hidden in Finnmark. While Svendsen and his team track down this “treasure hunt,” they eventually discover a cave filled with Viking weapons, armor, and a helmet as proof of their predictions. However, Svendsen soon discovers that this cave is actually a tomb, and comes face to face with what really killed the Vikings.
Right off the bat, this movie gets a gold star for being accessible to both children and adults. There is a serious lack of “transition” horror/sci-fi films coming from sources older than 1998, and it’s nice to see a film both parents and their little ones can enjoy (that will satisfy the seamless SFX kids of the new millennium are accustomed to seeing). The parallels to films like JURASSIC PARK are inevitable, but I rather prefer this family over the one we’re given in Spielberg’s classic. Svendsen is a thin and awkward guy, allowing him to be someone I completely believe as an archaeologist. His kids, well, they act like kids. Nothing about the family dynamic seems forced, and it’s easy to invest into the lives of these people. It was extremely refreshing to see a family-friendly film that wasn’t catering to snot-nose brats and only snot-nose brats. This is a film kids could drag their parents to without them whining about it on Facebook later with their mommy-blogger friends. The first half of this film is a surprisingly educational adventure story in beautiful landscapes, and the second half is a fight-for-your-life monster flick. It’s scary enough to be effective without traumatic, and the monsters are convincing even for those old enough to know some team behind a computer screen conjured the thing into existence.
RAGNAROK does take a little too long for things to kick it into monster territory, but the payoff is definitely well worth the wait. The creature design is pure nightmare fuel plucked straight out of the Prose Edda. The film delivers a moment equally as intense as the “Raptors in the Kitchen” scenario, and the moments that “hit,” hit really effectively. The dangerous aspects feel very real, and never once does the film patronize or talk down to the audience. It is a Norwegian film, so be prepared to read subtitles. Honestly? You don’t even need the subtitles. The actors are strong enough to convey exactly what’s going on even if you don’t understand a word they’re saying. Ultimately, RAGNAROK is an extremely satisfying trip back to when adventure films were thrilling, exciting, and most importantly, fun.