Ed Wood, the oft-derided “worst director of all time,” made films with outwardly shoddy production values that nonetheless bore witness to the euphoria of an inextinguishable love for cinema. Conversely, Mikkel Brænne Sandemose’s Ragnarok reaps the benefits of a half century’s worth of technological advances and diminished production costs for a story that seemingly no one cared about telling in the first place. With a budget likely dwarfed by the catering bill of the latest Transformers film, this rote creature feature can be forgiven for emptying the bag of visual tricks and narrative devices that allow it to keep its monster both threatening and off screen as much as possible. Less forgivable are the corners it cuts on its human elements. Were Ragnarok’s characters more than flimsy archetypes, and were its indulgences into worn-thin genre conventions suffused with anything resembling wonder or wit, then such thriftiness might have been charming, or at the very least tolerable.
From its titular use of a mythological term foretelling of the end of days to an insensitive utilization of a family’s history with cancer as a mere expository device, Ragnarok frequently makes weighty claims that it falls embarrassingly short of delivering on. Sigurd Svendsen (Pål Sverre Hagen) is an archeologist who brings his children along for the ride when he finds a map that points the way to an ancient Viking stomping ground. Buried treasure and a mysterious egg are found, character motivation goes out the window, a monster appears, and tension-free hijinks ensue, culminating in an absurd exchange of inter-species parental respect that looks silly compared to Gorgo and downright stupid post-Aliens. Along the way, they’ll meet the Deceptively Supportive Colleague (Nicolai Cleve Broch), the Crotchety Local Tour Guide (Bjørn Sundquist), and the Pleasant Surrogate Mom Lady (Sofia Helin); all that’s missing are the countdown displays indicating when someone will be eaten. In the end, any and all potential B-movie fun is extinguished by Ragnarok’s depressingly listless anonymity.