“He wishes to teach me humility” – Of Gods and Warriors (Blu-Ray Review)

Rating:

In the kingdom of Volsung, Princess Helle is the rightful heir to the throne, but she is forced to flee after she’s framed for the murder of her father, the King.  On the run, she seeks guidance from Odin to gain the wisdom needed to take back Volsung and fulfil her destiny.

Manipulated by the god of mischief, Loki, the reigning king will stop at nothing to kill Princess Helle, but she has companions on her side, as well as Odin himself.

Of Gods and Warriors, or Viking Destiny as it is also known, is certainly an ambitious film with a cast which includes screen legend Terence Stamp, along with the ever reliable and almost unrecognisable Will Mellor. Martyn Ford and Ian Beattie add to the ranks of actors convinced to appear in a film that probably sounded good on paper.

Ambition, though, is a millstone for this film, especially given the success of Vikings, Black Sails, Game of Thrones and other fantasy TV series that, even in a single episode, can eclipse David L. G. Hughes attempt to bring Norse mythology to life in a story about a woman seeking her destiny that will largely make you want to give up.  Hughes seems to want to give Of Gods and Warriors an almost Shakespearean feel, with characters delivering wordy monologues though lacking the grammatical dexterity to make them feel meaningful.

The script tries to go for portentous, haunting and mysterious as we follow Helle on her travels, but instead falls at each hurdle, primarily thanks to some decidedly stiff acting from some of the players, a script that does nobody any favours and combat sequences that feel don’t come together to give them any weight or impact.

Anna Demetrious does well with the limp script and awkward dialogue.  She gets to show her action hero potential in a film that doesn’t deserve this level of commitment from some of its cast. Terence Stamp, as Odin, is all mysterious, popping up every so often to pass on a riddle before he disappears in a puff of smoke.  Whilst the god of wisdom may be visiting Helle, Murray McArthur’s Loki is chewing up the scenery with a grandiose performance that occasionally borders on camp.  We’re not watching Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston, here.

It’s not all bad, though, as the location work in Northern Ireland makes the country look beautiful and the greenery radiates from the screen.

The Blu-Ray features interviews with the cast and crew, along with the director’s trailer and theatrical trailer.  Hughes comes across as a passionate filmmaker, he wanted to subvert the Disney princess films, whilst Andee Ryder describes Of Gods and Warriors (Viking Destiny, as they refer to it) as “very clean and Disney-like”.  There lies part of the issue, one producer (also the writer and director) wanted to make it blood-soaked, the other made a clean film.  Disney is the go-to reference for the costume designer, too.  Terence Stamp is graceful in what he says of the film, as are Demetriou and the other members of the cast.

Curiously, Of Gods and Warriors may have worked better as a TV miniseries than as a film, having had a short cinematic run before its home media release.  It would certainly have given Hughes a chance to work out what he wanted from the film as it lurches from scene to scene, never really finding the balance between the smaller story of Helle and the bigger story of the influence of the gods on the people of Volsung.

A strong female lead should play well for modern audiences and the Viking backdrop is a popular one for all ages, but this film is unlikely to be one that’s remembered amongst genre fans that’s to its disappointing script, half-hearted combat sequences and a pervasive feeling of having seen it all done before, better, elsewhere.

Dir: David L G Hughes

Scr: David L G Hughes

Cast: Terence Stamp, Will Mellor, Anna Demetriou, Paul Freeman, Timo Nieminin, Ian Beattie

Prd: David L G Hughes, Andee Ryder

DOP: Sara Deane

Country: Northern Ireland

Year: 2018

Runtime: 91 mins

Of Gods and Warriors is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now.