Like Siegfried, Vikings were immune to fear. Strength, determination and—above all—mastery of the oceans and the ships required to move goods, settlers and merciless warriors were the keys to their centuries-long success.
Much of that fabled history is beautifully captured in Marc Fafard’s IMAX Odyssey, Vikings: Journey to New Worlds. But by the time the final oar is shipped, many viewers may have already hit their mute buttons, favouring the spectacular camera work of Andy Kitzanuk and Carl Samson’s magnificent aerial photography over Fafard’s and Jonathon Hock’s pedantic script. It’s delivered in a storybook canter rather than enthused passion for sagas by narrator, Mike Giunta.
The rich visual costuming and set dressing is run aground early on when the famous horned helmet is likened to Wagner’s Ring Cycle characters. Incredibly, the legendary composer’s surname is pronounced like TV star Robert Wagner, sounding a false note and undermining factual observations still to come.
Fortunately, the eye is soon engaged in the faithfully reconstructed vessels. Through the magic of green screens, René Caron’s editing expertise and fully loaded water cannons, the expeditions to Europe, Greenland and North America are faithfully rendered. Only the near-constant, over-the-shoulder shot of Eric the Red (or others at the helm) peering out into the manufactured waves detracts from the impression that we are truly “at sea.”
The opening Carmina Burana enriched score is the ideal aural backdrop for a people that were as efficient as they were ruthless in conquering foes and increasing trade. Sadly, by the time the splendours of Iceland are revealed, the accompaniment slips into the frivolous and merely mundane—seemingly at odds with the importance of the colonial achievement. Here too was an innocent, if somewhat contrived shot of flag-waving children settling into their new domain. That was fine in itself but its reappearance thousands of frames down the road—now as a quick-fix stock filler—resonates badly amidst the New World splendour.
The large cast of re-enactors, in freshly pressed outfits and gleaming gear, acquit themselves well, adding much to the overall pace.
Each segment is full of historical facts and trivia (from days of the week to the origin of “saga”), making this film a must-see for students of all ages. The production comes full circle as it demonstrates how the reputation and power of the “Men of the North” has permeated into modern times through various brandings of “Vikings.” Proof positive that their exploits have caught the attention and admiration of present-day “marketers” world-wide.
For those interested in “How did they do that?” the bonus feature, The Making of Vikings, is highly recommended. JWR