Ragnarok (2015) Review

When Norwegian archaeologist Sigurd Svendsen (Pål Sverre Hagen) comes under pressure from his Museum employers to show some results for his expensive explorations of a remote northern area of the Norwegian/ Russian border, he decides to mount one final expedition with two colleagues and his children to chase down a theory he has about the runes on a recently discovered tablet. The expedition takes them north to Finnmark and an abandoned no-man’s land along the border. There, Svendsen and his group discover that some legends are based on some very real truths.

There’s been a steadily increasing stream of interesting movies coming out of Scandinavia in recent years. No longer the sole province of bleak, existential drama, a new generation of filmmakers have been mining the region’s rich cultural history and heritage for spectacular sci-fi and fantasy adventures, packed with charm, wit and fascinating folklore, such as “Trollhunter”, “Rare Exports” and “Dead Snow”.

Ragnarok takes as its inspiration the Viking legend of the ending of the world, and despite being rooted firmly in Norwegian cultural myth, director Mikkel Brænne Sandemose and wirter John Kåre Raake resolutely follow the Spielberg playbook. From the widowed, obsessed parent which a loving but dysfunctional relationship with his children living in slightly ramshackle domesticity to the sceptical authorities and the small group venturing into the wilds for proof, this is early eighties Spielberg translated to a Northern European setting.

It’s not just the set-up which pays homage, there are direct lifts from “Jurassic Park”, “Jurassic Park III” and “Jaws” while the whole archaeology angle brings the swashbuckling adventurousness of Indiana Jones to mind. But it’s not a complete rip-off and has a decent story to tell, with some memorable set pieces (one of which owes a little to Renny Harlin’s 1993 thriller “Cliffhanger”) and the cast are likeable and engaging. Yes, even the kids!

In the end, it can’t quite deliver on its ambition or the set up and despite tacitly promising the end of the world, it really is more of a creature feature than an apocalyptic action adventure. But the effects work is good and the locations, while maybe not as exotic as Isla Nublar or Tanis are still beautiful to look at and used well in the film and it’s a fun, old-fashioned adventure with a great deal more heart and dignity than most of the dross that SyFy Originals come out with.