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(Today’s final NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo prompt was to write a translated poem, so I tried to write something homophonically similar to “The Half-Finished Heaven” by Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer. Doing that, I could have ended up with something as inscrutable as some of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ work, so instead I simply began each line of the poem below with the same letter as the original poem and chose a Scandinavian film to review.)

Mid-look was my life cut short,
Aghast at the proven report.
Goodbye to my daughter and son;
Dear father will never see port.

A brave man was I, no mistake.
Oh, Vikings would never forsake.
Vigor was rife in our bones,
Alas, till they littered the lake.

Veiled are we here in our sleep,
Veiled in the dangerous deep.
Still does our conqueror live,
Drowsing upon our corpse heap.

Valiant and foolish to tarry
Is he who finds our cemetery.

MPAA rating: PG-13

Ragnarok may be the first Norwegian film I’ve seen, in a way the Norwegian equivalent of a late-summer blockbuster. Perhaps the closest thing I can compare it to is 2008’s Journey to the Center of the Earth with Brendan Fraser, loaded as both are with clichés and genuinely thrilling moments. Both films start out much the same; like Fraser’s volcanologist, archaeologist Sigurd Swenson (good Scandinavian name!) is desperate for funding, and when an enigmatic clue arises, he brings along his two kids Ragnhild and Brage and a couple colleagues on an ill-advised search for answers that doesn’t go as planned. In lieu of a Jules Verne novel as inspiration, Norse mythology stands in with the story of Ragnarok, a.k.a. the end of the world.

The expedition walks into danger when they raft across a remote, far-north lake to a central island where both Vikings and Russians once visited, never to leave again. It’s an effective build-up to what is ultimately a creature feature. The monster hidden below the surface and the foolish decisions of the humans will bring to mind films like Jaws, Eragon, and Jurassic Park III, but this Norwegian equivalent of those movies usually manages to make the material its own. A few set pieces involving a zip line and a bunker are edge-of-your-seat highs, and my VC was far more terrified than I at one prolonged suspense scene.

It may not be entirely original, but Ragnarok is an entertaining action adventure with some tense thrills that never become un-family friendly. The special effects are usually as good as most American productions, and the isolated Arctic scenery makes for a stunningly rich setting. I will be interested to see how Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok compares. For a first accessible foray into Norwegian cinema, I’d recommend Ragnarok, though don’t watch the English dub. Most dubs don’t bother me, but when children are screaming and some English voiceover dully says “Help me,” it kinda ruins the moment.

Rank: List Runner-Up

© 2016 S. G. Liput

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