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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Vikings: Journey to New Worlds (review)

It can sometimes be frustrating watching a movie shot in the typical 35mm on a TV, even when the transfer is letterboxed — Peter Jackson’s orc armies aren’t quite as impressive on a 27-inch television — but for extra weirdness, try watching an IMAX movie on a TV. And no cheating and using a widescreen HDTV either. I just checked out Vikings: Journey to New Worlds, a new IMAX flick from 2005 (it’s actually still playing in some IMAX theaters), and it works just fine as a PBS-style documentary, even if the onscreen informational titles have been reduced so much that they’re all but impossible to read. Lindisfarne, England, AD what the heck? Fortunately, as is usually the case with PBS-style documentaries, the announcer tells us what’s in the text anyway, so it’s okay in the end. This is, you know, educationalish, so don’t expect battles with orcs or sea monsters or anything, but for dispelling myths and misunderstandings about the culture that is way more responsible for the warp and weft of Western civilization than most Westerners appreciate, this is good stuff. (With a name like Johanson, you can imagine, perhaps, that this is an issue rather close to my heart.) The Vikings weren’t all about the raping and the pillaging, and no, they didn’t really wear horns on their helmets like Bugs Bunny cartoons would have us believe. The Vikings founded the city of Dublin! The Vikings had settlements in North America centuries before Columbus’s grandparents were even born! The Vikings built really cool and technologically advanced ships! And if the gorgeous vistas of Greenland and Iceland aren’t quite as breathtaking as they would be on an IMAX screen, well, they’re still gorgeous enough to make you understand why these guys, who were basically farmers like everyone else in the Middle Ages, moved to locales that even today, few people realize are so beautiful. Sure, a few monasteries might have gotten knocked over along the way, but the Vikings gave us Beowulf, which gave us Tolkien, which — hey! — gave us Peter Jackson’s orc armies, so in the long run, who can complain? [buy at Amazon]

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MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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