Oct 052017
 
Alfred the Great

Rating: ★★½☆☆
To the best of my knowledge, this is the only film about Alfred the Great, and it is a disappointment. For a movie with numerous battles, the fight choreography is surprisingly weak. The film avoids a glossy portrayal of the period, and Alfred is genuinely unlikeable, vain and abusive towards his wife. Although the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok led the Danish invasion of England, the script ignores the Lothbrok dynasty, highlighting instead Guthrum, a later leader. Since the script focuses mainly on Alfred’s struggle to choose between the Church and the defence of the kingdom, there is little time left for political complexities. A slapstick comedy without the humor, Alfred the Great fails to explain the role played by Alfred in the creation of England. Read More…

Aug 172017
 
The Last Kingdom Season Two

The focus in season two moves north to show what has been happening while Uhtred has been keeping Wessex safe for Saxons. Having driven the Danes out of southern England, Alfred wants order, Christianity and an end to Viking rule in Northumbria. Drawn into Alfred’s schemes, Uhtred makes Guthred, a Dane, king of all of Northumbria, both Dane and Saxon. Many mean, nasty people are killed along the way. Meanwhile, Uhtred continues to make life hard for himself, worsened by Alfred’s admission that he does not trust his pagan warlord, leaving Wessex less prepared when the next wave of gold-hungry Vikings arrives, led by the brothers Erik and Sigfried. Read More…

Jul 272017
 
Vikings Season Four

In a season filled with betrayals, plotting, a mid-life crisis and drug addiction, Ragnar Lothbrok’s story finally comes to its end, enabling his sons to step into the spotlight and invade England. Despite my restrained and much deserved criticism of the many idiocies in the plot, I have to say that the battle scenes on Vikings are awesome. Along with Travis Fimmel’s portrayal of Ragnar, they make the show worth watching, but they are brief islands of pleasure within an overall plot that lacks both any logic or connection to historical reality. I used to enjoy Vikings and looked forward to new episodes. Now, it’s something I watch while doing my ironing. Read More…

Nov 172016
 
The Last Kingdom-Season One

Based on the historical novel series The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell, the series examines the Danish conquest of England from the perspective of Uhtred Ragnarson, a Saxon raised by Danes, who finds himself fighting for King Alfred of Wessex against the Great Heathen Army, a massive Danish army, which invaded England in 866 AD. The show’s greatest weakness is its portrayal of the Viking invaders as moderately bright thugs, rather than ruthless but skilled political operators. Still, it is an interesting examination of the time before there was an England, presenting a nation-building process that was bloody and not guaranteed. Read More…

Oct 082015
 
The Last Kingdom Trailer

Yet another historical series starts this week. Although the two shows are on different networks, The Last Kingdom is a kind of sequel to Vikings, which presents the adventures of Ragnar Lodbrok, since Ragnar’s sons lead the initial invasion that conquers all of England, except for Wessex. Alfred, king of Wessex and a devoted Christian, is determined to drive the pagan Vikings out of England and unify the kingdoms into a single English nation. Despite his fierce faith, Alfred has a frail body, so he reluctantly relies on Uhtred Ragnarson, a Saxon who was raised by Danes, to lead his armies. Mistrusted by most Saxons because he openly worships the Norse gods, Uhtred struggles as much with his own loyalties as with his many enemies. Read More…