Thor: Hammer of the Gods (2009)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Zachery Bryan, Daz Crawford, Alexis Peters, Mac Brandt, Melissa Leigh
Directed by Todor Chapkanov
Thor: Hammer of the Gods is pure cookie cutter Sci-Fi Channel movie-making and cookie cutter is not an expression one should have to use to describe a fantasy horror flick involving Vikings battling werewolves. I can’t even bring myself to fault the two screenwriters because I’ve heard too many stories over the years from various Sci-Fi original movie authors about how stifling they tend to make the creative process and watching this film it is quite evident that the creative process did not allow for much by way of creativity. I can fault them for the stilted dialogue and I can also fault the actors for believing that just because they are appearing in a Viking movie that means they have to speak every stilted line as a bad Shakespearean actor would. The rest is an assembly line of clichéd plotting, visual effects hampered by the usual budgetary restraints, and a lead actor so absurdly miscast it should have been obvious to everyone long before the cameras began rolling.
Honestly now, who the hell thought it was a good idea to cast the eldest son from “Home Improvement” as the legendary Thor? When I first heard about Zachery Bryan (his middle name “Ty” nowhere to be found in the opening credits) being cast in the role of Thor I thought it was an odd bordering on laughable choice. Actually seeing him with his puffy babyface and fledgling beard, neither capable of carrying himself or sounding like a credible Viking warrior… I don’t care if the argument is that this is the Captain America-ish tale of how a mild-mannered Viking – “mild-mannered” being another word no one should ever be using in discussion of a Viking movie – gained the “hammer of the gods” by defeating Fenris to become the mightiest Viking warrior of legend; Bryan is no Thor and never will be. Every single time his Thor has a vision that looks remarkably like the Marvel Comics’ Thor fighting monsters or posing with his giant hammer amid a stormy lighting-filled night sky (looking very much like one of those Marines recruitment commercials) I kept wishing that Viking was the star of the film instead of Bryan. Then when the movie tries to convince us that Viking from the visions is Zachery Bryan, puh-leaze.
Were there no pro wrestlers or MMA fighters or bodybuilders available for casting? I refuse to believe the casting of Zachery Bryan was done for his name value.
Far more convincing is Blade II‘s Daz Crawford as Ulfrich, the great warrior leading his fellow Norsemen (and Norsewomen) to this cursed island in search of the “hammer of the gods” that he believes is destined for his grasp. The only problem is that while Crawford carries himself with the proper amount of Berserker swagger, the guy is just far too dark-skinned to be playing a Viking. A Greek hero, a Spartan warrior, or even a Moor – yes. But a Viking? The word “swarthy” generally doesn’t spring to mind when you think of Scandinavians.
The questing Vikings are immediately besieged on this island by lycans that look like skinny Minotaurs with wolf heads instead of bulls. I’m not entirely sure if they were always full-bodied CGI creations or human actors with wolf heads digitized onto them or a mixture of both, but it makes for some rather awkward action scenes; actors flail away aimlessly with their swords at wolfmen that appear to have been added into the scenes later. All of the film’s swordplay looks very stagey but none more so than these moments.
The werewolf visuals still fair better than their master, the wolf god Fenris, which appeared to me to be the cheaply animated lovechild of He-man’s Cringer and Skeletor’s Panthor. Endowing it with a Darth Vader-esque voice does not help matters. Fenris is just a bigger, blacker version of the poorly rendered creatures seen in every Sci-Fi Channel saber-toothed tiger movie that’ll leave you longing for some good old fashioned Ray Harryhausen stop-motion.
All of which could be forgiven if Thor: Hammer of the Gods proved genuinely thrilling or even laughably campy instead of leaving me with a feeling of complete indifference. Director Todor Chapkanov’s last foray into Sci-Fi filmmaking, Copperhead (also penned by Rafael Jordan, a co-writer of this outing), was one of the more entertaining Sci-Fi offerings in recent memory. What here should have been a fantastical melding of The 13th Warrior and Dog Soldiers ends up being yet another predictably shopworn Sci-Fi Channel experience.
When Thor and Ulfrich, who gets seduced by the dark side, have their big confrontation, Ulfrich unleashes his newfound powers bestowed upon him by Fenris by flexing his muscles and letting out a primal roar as if he were a violently constipated Hulk Hogan. All that bluster for what? Does he too develop a wolf’s head? Does he turn into something even more feral and ferocious? Nope. Daz Crawford’s facial features turn slightly darker and he develops a butthead. I mean his cranium literally grows butt cheeks. This is his ultimate power that he sold his soul for? And yet as stupid as the visual is, somehow it manages to remain every bit as ho-hum as the rest of Thor: Hammer of the Gods.
1 1/2 out of 5
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