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Right, so judging by the 5.7 score this film has, I realise I'm in a
minority here... Well I'm sorry, but this is such a wonderful film! The
story is great, the cast is fantastic, effects are good, soundtrack is
lovely, and excluding the first fifteen minutes, which are crucial for
the storyline, it is hilarious throughout! Unlike other Python films,
this one is real, with no silly cartoon bits in the middle and a much
more intelligent humour. Much better than The Holy Grail, that had a
rubbish end to it.
Well done Terry, it's a great shame that not more viewers have come across Eric The Viking, or didn't like it as much (I have a feeling that many of them were expecting a typical Python film).
British comedian Terry Jones found fame and fortune as a member of the
legendary comedy troupe known as Monty Python, where along his
teammates revolutionized comedy with their sketch show "Flying Circus"
during the 70s. While this is probably his most well-known activity,
Jones is also a popular historian, specialized on the European Medieval
period, who has published several books on this and other subjects of
ancient history. In 1983, after the dissolution of Monthy Python, Jones
published a children's book named "The Saga of Erik the Viking", where
he explored this interest of him in the story of a young Viking. Years
later, he wrote the screenplay for a movie version inspired in the
children's book, although dealing more mature themes. "Erik the Viking"
was the name of the movie and it is possibly the movie that best
describes Jones' persona, as it mixes the style of Monthy Python comedy
(although it is not a sketch-based movie) with Jones' special taste for
The film is the story of Erik (Tim Robbins), a viking who after the murder of an innocent woman during one of his tribe's expedition, discovers that he is not really happy with the whole raping and pillaging customs of his people. Looking for advice, Erik asks the wise old woman Freya (Eartha Kitt) for a solution, and she tells him that since Fenris the Wolf has swallowed the sun, the age of violence, Ragnarok, has begun. Worried by this revelation, Erik decides to travel to the legendary land of Hy-Brasil, in order to find the Horn Resounding, the magic artifact that will take him to Asgard and awake the Gods. With this in mind, Erik prepares an expedition and sails to adventure; but Halfdan the Black (John Cleese) and Keitel Blacksmith (Gary Cady) are not so happy about finishing the lucrative business of war, so both decide to follow Erik in order to make him fail.
While the movie is not exactly an adaptation of Jones' children's book, his love for history is still all over the movie, as it's filled with countless references to Norse myths and Viking culture. Python's style of comedy is present in a subtler (although no less hilarious) way, and like in his previous work, Jones uses "Erik" to make fun of concepts as the social establishment, war, and religion. This last theme is represented in a very interesting way, with the concept of faith and beliefs playing a very important (and amusing) part of Erik's quest to awake the Gods. However, despite Jones' love for history, people expecting a true and realistic representation of a Norse Edda will be sorely disappointed, as Jones takes many liberties for the sake of comedy (and probably to make his movie easier to understand for people not familiar with Norse mythology).
In this his third "solo" effort as director (two of the Python films were co-directed with Terry Gilliam), Terry Jones shows the evolution of what was started in "Life of Brian", as while his movie is a story of epic proportions, he keeps the film focused on his characters and their many funny traits. This really works for the movie, as while Erik's crew is numerous, each one is highly detailed and Jones dedicates enough time to get to know everyone of them, developing them as characters and as a team, and making the audience care for them. This take is also beneficial as lessens the damage done by the poor special effects (due to low-budget) of some scenes, although to Jones' credit, the way he fuses realism with magic surrealism is also a brilliant move. The somewhat restrained way that Jones uses to approach to comedy this time (keeping it focused to the plot instead of using sketches) is also more in tone with "Life of Brian" than with the other Monty Python films.
Tim Robbins is perfectly cast as Erik, as his really becomes this good hearted, yet extremely naive adventurer, decided to stop the wars of the world. Robbins' career was at an early stage when he did this film, but already shows his talent and is very good with Jones' style of comedy. Monthy Python's John Cleese is fabulous as Halfdan the Black, and steals most of the scenes he is in. Overall the actors playing Erik's crew are really excellent and truly are a key factor in this success of the movie. Imogen Stubbs plays Aud, the princess of Hy-Brasil who tries to help Erik in this quest. Stubbs is effective for the role, although sadly the rest of the cast overshadows her without problem. Mickey Rooney and Terry Jones himself have small yet very funny roles too, and both make the most of their small scenes.
Personally, I think that the movie's biggest problem is actually Terry Jones' background with the Pythons, as this may make fans to expect something keeping the style of the troupe's previous films. While "Erik the Viking" does have it's fair share of Python's humor, it would be wrong to call it a Python movie. Other than the probably too high expectations it probably won't meet, the movie really doesn't have many flaws and it's an excellent satire that delivers the goods without false pretensions. True, it has some serious problems with special effects that could had been better with a bigger budget, but Jones makes the movie work with his mix of wit and charm, as well as his knowledge of medieval cultures.
"Erik the Viking" is definitely an unfairly underrated comedy that while never on the level of classic Monty Python's Flying Circus, it provides some fun intelligent comedy paired with an interesting story of action and adventure. It's flawed, but has a special charm that just makes the whole movie work without problem. As a satire it's really good, and despite its few historical inaccuracies, it's a nice piece of Viking action. Truly a movie that really deserves a viewing. 8/10
Seen as a poor relation to true-Python movies (even forgotten), it
tells the tale of a young adventurous Viking, Erik, who sets out on a
quest to find Asgard. Along with a selection of other Norsk villagers,
they sail into the unknown, encounter a sea monster and stumble across
the idyllic 'Hy-Brazil', a land ruled by King Arnulf (Director, Terry
Jones) who keeps insisting that in the face of adversity "It's alright.
It's not happening".
The badness in this piece is care of Halfdan the Black (John Cleese) and delivered in typical Cleese fashion. Loki ((now) Sir Anthony Sher) plays to Halfdan as a crooked little stoolpigeon, only looking to improve his standing and possible gains.
Sadly, no other members of the original Python team played a part in this film as, rumour has it, after the death of Graham Chapman (in October of 1989), the remaining Pythons. Gilliam, Palin and Idle, decided not to appear.
Erik The Viking is a light comedy with occasional droplets of Python rain, gently falling about the story. Director, Terry Jones, relies on a pair of old-school character actors who number his and many Python films: John Scott Martin (Ingemund the Old) and Charles McKeown (Sven's Dad).
Jones allowed his cast to keep their mother-tongues: Tim Robbins (Erik) and Mickey Rooney (Erik's Grandfather) keep their American drawls and John Gordon Sinclair (Ivar), his broad Scottish accent. One of the best interactions is between Ivar and Thorofinn, discussing seasickness aboard their boat and a welcome diversion comes in the shape of 28yr old Imogen Stubbs (Princess Aud).
In the end, it's just a bit of fun and serves as a good 'hors d'oeuvre' to anyone who needs a gentle initiation into the world of Python.
Terry Jones is probably the least appreciated member of Monty Python, but viewing `Erik the Viking' should change your opinion on that. The movie's world is bleak and bitter (reading about Norse religion will show you that the Vikings lived in a bleak and bitter world), but Tim Robbins' idealistic and earnest Erik is just sweet and hopeful enough to keep things interesting, rather than completely depressing. The casting is excellent. Particularly noteworthy are Jones himself as a king who quite literally only sees what he wants to see; Eartha Kitt as a very effective and chilling Norse goddess (yeah, it sounds weird, but it's perfectly done); and Antony Sher, whose Loki is equal parts weasel and villain. You'll be disappointed if you come in expecting over-the-top Pythonesque zany-ness, but to me, this movie felt like a maturation of that style. The satire is still there but it's more sober than frenetic. I only rated this movie an 8 because I don't watch it very often, but it's probably my favorite of all the Pythons' solo projects.
In true Python alum fashion, this movie is rewatchable (despite what
says) and a lot of fun each time you watch it. Tim Robbins does his usual
good job in a light-hearted but sensitive role; and possibly the best line
of the movie is John Cleese's reaction to Robbins when Robbins *believes*
himself to be invisible, declaring: "Now you see me, now you don't!"
Cleese's reaction has me laughing out loud every time.
Behind all the fun and games, though, Terry Jones has done some pretty darn clever commentary on belief systems and epistemology; the fact that you can only be affected by that particular brand of magic in which you believe is a strong idea which rings nicely throughout the movie. (The addition of the priest character drives the point home nicely.) Interesting ideas, which I'd bet are ignored by most people just out for a good time (which is okay too, since it's a funny movie).
I have a hard time figuring out why Leonard Maltin qualified this movie as an "unwatchable satire." I've watched it about 3 or 4 times, so obviously it is watchable. Not only that, it is quite funny, with Terry Jones hilarious as King Arnulf of Hy-Brazil. I also thought Tim Robbins was quite good as the outcast Erik. The story, on the other hand, was pedestrian and not very engrossing, but I was laughing pretty hard most of the time so the story became just a background aspect of this very funny film anyways. John Cleese has a hilarious cameo as Halfdan the Black who runs a torture chamber in his spare time. Also, the Japanese slave driver is one of the highlights. Good entertainment. 8 out of 10 stars.
'Erik' was quite cute and had some absolutely brilliant moments but overall
wasn't as tight and consistently funny as I was hoping. There were quite a
few sections that seemed to wander along pointlessly; what a
Tim Robbins was fine in a cutesy, little boy way which is, I guess, what he was supposed to be. I couldn't help wishing he had a tad more substance. Cleese's role seemed generally uninspired with only brief moments of genius. It was fun, however, seeing Tim McInnerny pre-Blackadder-"Captain Darling" days and Antony Sher made an excellent "trickster" Loki.
It's possible that the print I rented from my local video shop was a bit more dingy than the original, but the stunning scenery (filmed in Norway, Malta and England) lost its effect.
Despite these negatives, it's certainly worth watching at least once, if only for those inspired moments of comedy it contains.
Erik The Viking seems like a rather scholarly comedy. Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, seems to have done a lot of work on the history of the vikings. Jones then injects his sense of humor, which is over the top, and you have an educated comedy that only somebody familiar with Python could love.
Terry Jones wonderful examination of the mess of Viking life and legend
is a funny film - almost as good as MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL.
His intelligence is at work here. Jones wrote a book version of the
story first, and in it examined some of the odd concepts of that
remarkable period of rapine and violence. Jones is an expert on the
Middle Ages (he did a very amusing and informative multi-episode series
on the people of the Middle Ages for the history channel). So his grasp
on detail is marvelous.
To date, this is the only film to look at the Vikings and their religious/spiritual beliefs. What was their idea of heaven and hell. Well, we finally see Valhalla for what it was supposed to be. And the fallacy of it is brought home in the conclusion when Erik and his crew realize what garbage their culture embraces.
This is the only movie I know that also deals with the lost island of Hy-Brazil. Not to be confused with the huge country in South America, Hy-Brazil was one of many fictitious islands that were believed to be in the Atlantic Ocean in the Middle Ages - in some cases to the 19th Century. Hy-Brazil was supposed to sink every now and then, as it does in this film. But it sinks due to a violation of the moral purity of the island, for an act of violence occurs there that is against the state of the island. And the King of Hy-Brazil (Jones) is so self-centered that he can imagine that everything is fine, that he refuses to accept that the island is sinking and his subjects are drowning.
The King is also one of the examples of the marvelous twisted logic of the film - he has gotten a piece of cloth that he is told makes the wearer invisible. Nobody else but the king believes this. Erik, caught in the rooms of the King's daughter, puts the cloth on him. The King comes in to see who is there, and can't see him, although everyone else can see him.
There is a similar piece of logic at the end of the film, when the crew has reached Valhalla, and found it not as they wanted to find it. They are trapped there because their belief and religion makes them seek Valhalla. Only the one Christian among them (Freddie Jones, in a nice performance) can't see what they see - he is a Christian, not a Viking Pagan. So he is able to return to their boat and free the others because he is not trapped by their mindset.
The performances are good, especially John Cleese as an expert in extortion and torture, who is treated like the benevolent laird of the manor (he willingly changes the dates of torments and tortures he schedules). Eartha Kitt as a priestess, and Mickey Rooney as a feisty grandfather of Erik, give good performances too. It is an interesting, odd, but successful period comedy.
Well, Erik essentially IS an anti-hero - all his filmed adventures start when he sets out to right that unfortunate mishap during the looting and raping raid. Great comedic performance from Tim Robbins, very believable Industrious Torturer Cleese, unforgettable Jones as the King of high Brazil and the lovely Imogen Stubbs - what else can you ask for?! What about a magic dish cloth, you say - well, we've got that too!
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