|Hammer of the Gods (2013)
(Release Date: September 10, 2013) - The initial setup of director Farren Blackburn's "Hammer of the Gods" is deceptive. Set in Britain in 871 A.D. during the war between Vikings and the Saxon Resistance, the film opens with an evocative shot of a young boy watching along the shore as the enemy's ships start to vaguely appear from out of the distant mist. What starts off looking like it might be "Troy" crossed with "300," made all the more impressive because of its convincing effects work and non-greenscreen locations, soon recoils in on itself. Instead of leading toward a large-scale battle setpiece, the anticlimactic finale is set in a cave. The purpose of the film, which finds mild-mannered Viking warrior Steinar (Charlie Brewley) begrudgingly agreeing to help his injured father, King Bagsecg (James Cosmo), find his estranged brother, is clearly more interested in Steinar's gradual corruption as a ruthless heir to the throne than providing epic-sized action scenes. This is all well and good, but the picture is curiously lethargic and the characters uninteresting and stale. When the last shot cuts to black at the exact moment a battle cry is waged, it feels like a cheat.
The period road-trip-cum-war-drama that is "Hammer of the Gods" might not be very good, but it undoubtedly looks smashing. Magnet Releasing's 1080p transfer doesn't quite reach the reference-quality levels of a big-budget blockbuster, but for what is an intentionally gloom-filled picture this is a terrific high-def release. Full of diffused lighting, a tricky muted color scheme, and lots of fog, the film's fine grain structure is fully intact, the frame absent of any detectable noise or dirt. The screen might not consistently pop, but this is an accurate representation of what it is supposed to look like. The DTS-HD Audio Master 5.1 is perfectly clear, but decidedly imperfect. For this kind of film full of weapon-slashing combat, the back speakers are so subtly used this might as well be a 2.0 track. Said 2.0 track would sound superb, but for a full lossless 5.1 experience, there just isn't much here to get excited about.
Interviews (HD); The Making of "Hammer of the Gods" (HD); Behind the Visual Effects (HD); AXS TV: A Look at "Hammer of the Gods" (HD)
History buffs who enjoy the era which "Hammer of the Gods" is set in might get something out of this filmif, that is, they can accept the creative liberties takenbut as a complete motion picture, it is lacking in an absorbing protagonist and a satisfying payoff. Whether due to budget restraints or simply a weak script, the narrative journeys to an unambitious and almost frustrating place. Those expecting fireworks and razzle-dazzle should look elsewhere. This Blu-ray disc of "Hammer of the Gods" looks aesthetically beautiful, brought to life in all its moody, fog-drenched glory. My only wish is that the film itself was better.