Farren Blackburn’s Hammer of the Gods is an unbearably stupid exercise in gore that deserves to die the same cruel, soulless death that nearly every character does at some point in the film. It’s an entry-level love letter to Zach Snyder, the type of movie someone might draft in their high school video class and then piece together in front of a green screen after having watched 300 the night before. It also manages to be offensive on a multitude of mind-boggling levels. Men are portrayed in an excessive, insultingly primitive fashion, with an unquenchable, hyper-macho thirst for violence, stabbing, stoning, sucker-punching, and burning every person, animal, or thing within sight—yet there’s no rhyme or reason for all this bloodlust. Savagery is intrinsic in Blackburn’s universe, and so is misogyny. Only four women appear throughout Hammer of the Gods, and with the exception of one, who conforms to the barbaric male archetype, they serve no purpose other than to reinforce the patriarchal perspective from which this movie is shot. One is pelted with rocks and slashed to death, the second is only seen nude, the third is thrown down a massive hole, and the collective screen time given to them all is barely five minutes.
Blackburn encases the film’s gore in a bland road narrative about Vikings in 9th-century Britain. A warrior named Steinar (Charlie Bewley) sets out to find his long-lost brother, who his dying father, King Bagsecg (James Cosmo), thinks can help save their crumbling empire. Along the way, Steinar becomes a ferocious war hero of sorts, slaughtering anything that stands in his path. These scorched-earth action scenes, which are unapologetically bloody in a dull, tasteless fashion, eat up a huge portion of the movie, rendering us desensitized and exhausted from all the brutality by the time the climactic ending battle scene between the two estranged siblings rolls around. Nothing, though, is more jarring than the film’s epic clash of antiquity and modernity. Matthew Read’s screenplay is ridden with goofy, archaic language and characters that exclaim things such as “He was fed gruel at first light.” Simultaneously, Blackburn is a sucker for 21st-century style bombast. Steinar and his men kill to the sounds of glitchy dubstep music, but calling this juxtaposition a portrayal of the past through the mediated lens of the present is too generous, because nothing in Hammer of the Gods is remotely smart. In reality, the film is but a poorly assembled hodgepodge of dumb ideas.