History credits the Vikings for discovering and attempting to colonize the New World.
But in the movies, those rape-ruin-and-run raiders are always getting lost. They’re stranded on some foreign shore, forced to fight their way home. Richard Widmark had to get past the Moorish Sidney Poitier in “The Long Ships,” Karl Urban was lost and raised among American Indians in “Pathfinder,” and Mads Mikkelson couldn’t figure out East from West in “Valhalla Rising.”
Often, there’s a local princess who falls in with the swarthy blonds, and “Stockholm Syndrome” is invented.
There’s a power struggle within the crew — brother against brother, resentful underling longing to take the helm.
You know these tropes, and I know them, and screenwriters Bastian Zach and Matthias Bauer familiarized themselves with them for “Northmen: A Viking Saga,” a blood-spattered quest story about Vikings shipwrecked in seriously uncivilized Scotland. It’s got every Norse cliche in the book, save for Monty Python’s suggestion that they loved SPAM and sang about it.
Asbjorn (Tom Hopper) leads the survivors inland, in search of Viking colonies in pre-Norman Britain. They stumble into a Scots princess (Charlie Murphy). Her father the king sends mercenaries (Nic Rasenti, Joe Vaz) after them/her.
And all that can save them is their brawn, her pluck and a mysterious monk (Ryan Kwanten) who seems more Shaolin than Cistercian. He is bold and sasses the Scandinavians. They must be lost.
“There are no monasteries to raid” around here, he cracks. But when The Wolves, as the mercenaries are called, charge in, Brother Collan (Kwanten) is handy with a staff, a stick, a knife or sword.
Princess Inghean touches the ground and “see what the land reveals to me.” Cool.
The fights are Old Hollywood meets New Bloodbath — corny and carnage-filled.
The whole saga seems pre-ordained, pre-packaged and pretty boring, entirely too predictable to come off. There’s a reason Viking movies follow a formula. Often it works. They’re the ultimate super soldiers battling long odds, the elements and legions of foes with one quip on their mind.
“You brother waits for us in Valhalla!”
The South African locations are more wooded and don’t quite mimic Scotland. But they’re striking and give you something to look at between well-staged and sometimes berserk battles and hoary B-movie cliches. Director Claudio Fah makes certain to leave none of those out.
Cast: Tom Hopper, Charlie Murphy, Ryan Kwanten, Nic Rasenti, Joe Vaz
Credits: Directed by Claudio Fah, script by Bastian Zach, Matthias Bauer. An Anchor Bay release.
Running time: 1:37