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Erik The Viking

Erik The Viking

By Jack Murphy • August 8th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 3/5
Orion Pictures Corporation

Original release: September 22nd, 1989
Running time: 90 minutes

Writer and director: Terry Jones

Cast: Tim Robbins, Mickey Rooney, Eartha Kitt, Terry Jones, Imogen Stubbs, John Cleese, Jim Broadbent

Erik The Viking

It was hard to approach Erik The Viking without comparing it to the heyday of Monty Python. Having been written and directed by Terry Jones, who also stars alongside John Cleese, Monty Python is actually unavoidable. It’s unfortunate that these two men are so quickly associated with their work from such a long time ago, but in the case of Erik The Viking they haven’t really helped themselves.

Erik (Tim Robbins) is a Viking who enjoys pillaging, murdering and sailing around the world with his friends. There’s one problem though: he just doesn’t really enjoy raping.

For Erik that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He’s a virgin, and a pretty soft-hearted warrior who feels bewildered by the life he leads. Then upon meeting a woma – according to his grampa it’s always a woman that causes the trouble – Erik is given a quest to go on to be the first mortals to visit Asgard to end Ragnarök. The socio-economical consequences of this journey for the blacksmith industry are, however, dire and a plot to sabotage Erik is quickly concocted.

As the crew travel to faraway lands and encounter sea dragons, perfect cities plagued by bad music, and treacherous storms, Erik falls in love with a beautiful woman and faces his fears head on. This is all set to a script with clever wordplays, silly scenarios, and insane fight scenes. The question is, how well has Jones tackled the Norse stereotype?

In subject matter, it does fulfil the Python criteria: it takes a period of history, inverts it and has a lot of silly ideas, but there’s a reason why this works, and why Jones is so good at writing these types of films.

Erik the Viking

Erik the Viking takes the idea of the typical, violent Viking and puts it on its head. All the received wisdom there is about Scandinavian pillaging is gently mocked in this film, from the hats to the unnecessary slaughtering. This is where Erik comes into it. Like the very naughty messiah of The Life of Brian, Erik doesn’t fit the basic mould. Where Brian is an accidental Christ-like figure, Erik has been born into an ‘Erik the Red’ lifestyle of looting, killing, raping and all around pillaging. But the truth of it is, he isn’t happy with the raping side of things.

The softly spoken Robbins is a mixed bag in Erik the Viking: although there are many parts of the film where he plays the role perfectly, particularly his (first) post-coital tiff, he doesn’t always deliver on the comic timing. There are moments when it’s just him prancing around and there isn’t much to be laughed at. Though that isn’t too much of the time.

John Cleese is the dignified but cruel enemy, and this is the perfect role for him. It’s not a massive role in the film, but the scenes he’s in are all solid, standard Cleese-style entertainment. Erik the VikingCasting his people off to be beheaded is up there with his most mundane day-to-day duties, and his blasé attitude towards this is very funny.

There are a few other notable names that come up throughout the film, the best of which being Tim McInnerny as the restrained berserker with a complex about his father. The odd moment he does go berserk is during a lecture about the importance of timing for a berserker – only for his father to then react in the same way later on in the film. McInnerny is made famous for his roles in Blackadder as mock historical figures, and this lives up to that earlier work.

Erik the Viking does lack something. It’s hard to work out what it is, but it doesn’t have the charm of Jones’ earlier work. Or it might be that the jokes have worn thin over the years. It is hard to place my finger on, but it doesn’t leave as much of an impression as The Holy Grail or The Life of Brian. Those are large shoes to fill, but they will always be a point of comparison for anyone involved with those films.

Overall, Erik the Viking is a fun and silly film with scenes that are hilarious and really mock the Norse stereotype. The cast contribute light hearted performances and there are moments that hark back to The Life of Brian. Unfortunately it just doesn’t quite make the Python grade to be up there with Jones’ better earlier work.

Jack Murphy

Jack Murphy

Jack is an English Literature student in his early Twenties (The Golden Age!) at the University of Leeds. He insists on saying that he’s originally from Slough, Berkshire which is the setting of Ricky Gervais’ comedy series The Office – and not a day goes by that he’s not reminded of that fact… Irrespective of being mocked for it, Jack still is, and will most likely remain, a big Gervais fan.

And he sure knows how to spend his time. Having subscribed to a well known DVD delivery service for the past three years, Jack spends half of his days watching DVDs – and the other half on catch-up websites watching TV programmes.

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