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Tag Archive: Vikings series


Review by C.J. Bunce

After more than a decade watching our all-time favorite series take place in Korea (M*A*S*H), it’s refreshing to at last to see in wide U.S. release a quality series set in Korea.  That series is the first South Korean series released by Netflix, a fantastic medieval historic mash-up with zombies called Kingdom, which began streaming this past weekend.  Sprouting from a well-documented, mysterious plague that killed tens of thousands of people in Hanyang (present-day Seoul) during the 19th century Joseon dynasty, this story nestles the viewer in a fully realized Korea of the past, complete with opulent sets, costumes, and production values said to have cost nearly $2 million per episode.  The result matches a stunning script (based on a web series by Kim Eun-hee, who counts herself a zombie aficionado and proves it with this series), top acting from a slate of South Korea’s most award-winning actors, and cinematography showing locations most Westerners have never seen, with an exciting Braveheart of the Far East meets The Walking Dead genre action feast.

The region’s king comes down with smallpox, and on his sick bed his latest wife, a young pregnant queen (played by Kim Hye-jun) schemes with her father and the king’s supposed confidante, Lord Cho (Masquerade’s Ryu Seung-ryong), to seize control of the throne, conspiring with Cho’s embedded clan of thugs to shun the true heir, the Crown Prince, played by Ju Ji-hoon (The Spy Gone North) as an earnest, Henry V-inspired leader.  But is the king really dead, and what other secrets does the queen keep?  Father and daughter bar access to everyone outside their circle, and so the Crown Prince escapes with his trusted and fierce lieutenant Muyeong, played with equal parts grit and humor by Sang-ho Kim (Octopus), conjuring the versatility of Japan’s Toshiro Mifune.  They set out to discover the source of the spreading plague, meeting up with a doctor played by Sense8 and Jupiter Ascending‘s Doona Bae, and (in a twist worthy of a Tom Clancy novel) the realization fosters the Crown Prince’s viability as a real leader against an unthinkable threat.  Rounding out the main cast is a mysterious warrior named Yeong-sin, an angry, defensive villager who buries a group of the dead against local traditions, played by Kim Sung-kyu.  His character is cloaked in his own secret past.

Deception.  Murder.  Conspiracy.  A prince who above all else looks to protect his father the king and be a good leader.  A heroic race to a stronghold via horse cart.  A mother infected who turns on her own child.  Swords and bow and arrow, and early rifles, as the only means of defense.  Gorgeous, truly cinematic imagery.  Western viewers get an incredible look at a beautiful island, forests, waterfalls, bubbling brooks, palatial estates, lakes and mountain views probably never captured for a wide modern audience, thanks to some stunning cinematography.  Fog, night, and fire eerily presented among cinematic storyboarded action sequences.  The music is a blending of traditional, medieval, Eastern themes, and sweeping programmatic action movie cues.  Costume designs in exquisite fabrics and designs at first may seem odd to modern viewers, but their similarity to the garb of Akira Kurosawa films (that Western audiences have had greater access to over the decades) should ease in most viewers.  The production sets and artistry are probably matched only by History’s Vikings of the current historical and fantasy TV series available.  And the expected horror of the zombie genre–sword beheadings were never filmed so believably.

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Labyrinth shirt

Loot Crate continues to be one of the best buys on the market in the monthly collectibles grab bag space at less than $20 per month.  Across all boxes, whether it’s Nerd Block, Comic Con Box, or any other, the fantasy themed boxes only seem to come around once or so per year, but when they do it is easy to make the genre base happy.  And that was no less true this month with the Quest themed box from Loot Crate.

One of the most untapped franchises for fan merchandise is History Channel’s Vikings series.  We’ve talked about the comic books before here at borg.com, but have not stumbled across much for fans to buy.  So we were ecstatic to not only find a Vikings item in the crate but a cosplay-worthy 1:2 scale replica of Floki’s drinking horn complete with wearing strap.  Although you wouldn’t wear it if you’re after a full-sized large horn for your fantasy or historical costume, it will work fine for those who prefer carrying the smaller horns during Renaissance Faire season.  And it looks great.  Of course when you’re ready for the real thing, check out our friend’s shop, Wildman Drinking Horns, here.  Randy has the best real drinking horns around.

Vikings Floki Viking horn    Floki Vikings horn replica

With the passing of David Bowie and rejuvenated interest in the classic 1986 adventure film Labyrinth co-starring Jennifer Connelly, incorporating a clever labyrinthine box design and well-designed T-shirt was a good move for Loot Crate.  See the shirt design above and fold-out box below.

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Hobbit booth Weta SDCC 2014 Azog

We thought we’d share some of the best exclusives and other offerings scheduled to be available at San Diego Comic-Con International this weekend for those of you who just can’t decide what to spend your money on.  There’s too much to be able to see everything at the big Con, so we’ve listed booth numbers so you can make sure you don’t miss out on those toys, posters, and comic books that you simply must have.

But first, how about some early SDCC reveals, like this image of Roy Harper’s new Arsenal costume from CW’s Arrow:

Arsenal reveal at SDCC 2014

and this great new SDCC 2014 exclusive poster for the final installment of The Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies:

The Hobbit Battle of Five Armies SDCC 2014 poster

And what’s better than news of a new comic book series tie-in from IDW Publishing for Orphan Black?

IDW reveal SDCC 2014 Orphan Black comic book series

Now on to the exclusives:

From the Weta Workshop (Booth #3613) you can get this Smaug scales T-shirt inspired by The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies:

Smaug scales T-shirt Weta SDCC 2014

and a pre-release copy of the new book The Art of Film Magic, signed edition:

Art of Film Magic SDCC 2014 WETA booth

From Alex Ross Art (Booth #2419) pick up original comic book art or limited prints, or this great 10-print edition portfolio of some of Alex Ross’s Marvel Comics work:

Alex Ross Art Portfolio - 10 prints

BOOM! Studios (Booth #2229) will be selling several exclusive cover variant comic books, including RoboCop #1:

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Travis Fimmel as Ragnar and Alyssa Sutherland as Aslaug in Vikings

Expect more Viking intrigue and action, more Viking drama, and a realistic historical look at Viking life in Season Two of Vikings, premiering tonight at 9 p.m. Central/10 p.m. Eastern on the History Channel.  The series introduces new characters and shakes up the very fabric of the universe centered on the legendary Ragnar Lodbrok.  Based on Viking sagas and characters from Norse mythology, Vikings is a series filled with both political posturing, hand to hand combat, giant sailing vessels, and a realistic look at the Viking world.

Last week I interviewed series lead Travis Fimmel, who plays Ragnar, and series newcomer Alyssa Sutherland, who has a key role in Season Two as Aslaug, a princess who drives a wedge between Ragnar and his family.

Vikings Season 2

Fimmel sees his role as the Viking warrior as the best project he has yet taken on.  “It’s definitely my favorite.  It has a lot to do with Michael Hurst, who created [Vikings].”  He credits his positive experiences on Vikings to the crew for the show.  “The Irish people do a tremendous job.  They’re very talented and very efficient and really make the best of the budget we have.”

The series is filmed an hour south of Dublin, Ireland.  During filming Fimmel lived in the country on a lake near one of the Vikings sets.  Although he plays the leader of the Viking tribe, he sees himself as just one of the crew off the set.  “I don’t let them treat me any differently–We all make fun of each other… We all get on very well.”

As you’d expect, filming the epic Viking longboat scenes is as much fun as it appears.  “We had a lot of tremendous fun on the boats.  This year we go out on the ocean–and it’s just beautiful.  Beautiful landscape.  The boat stuff’s really enjoyable.”

Ragnar and Floki season 2 episode one

Fimmel confirmed that full-scale longboats are used for the series, created based on historical research, and not just filming models or CGI creations.  “They’re made to scale.  They definitely float and definitely work and definitely sail.”

Alyssa Sutherland, who was introduced in the last episode of Season One as a temptress of sorts for Ragnar, portrays a princess from Norse mythology who played a pivotal role in the legend of Ragnar.  Sutherland also gets some scenes on the Viking longboats in Season Two.  “This season I got a bit of boat time, she said.  “We were really lucky.  It was this gorgeous day.  The perfect day to be out in the boat in the islands.  You really do feel a part of it.”

Alyssa Sutherland in Vikings

As the daughter of Sigurd and the shield-maiden Brynhildr, Sutherland’s character Aslaug is decked-out in beautiful, historically drawn ninth century costumes.

Sutherland said it was a treat to be able to work with the talented Vikings costume designer, Emmy Award winner Joan Bergin.  “Right at the beginning of the season when I went in for my first fitting, before I went in to see her I knew [the costumes] were going to be stunning…  She just knocked my expectations right out of the park.  It was fabulous.”

The authentic costumes help inform Sutherland’s character and performance.  “Working in these costumes–it’s so much easier to get into character when you have something on you that makes you feel so much a part of it…  Costumes are a really important part of your character and feeling you really are that person…  They really are gorgeous.”

Aslaug and friend in Vikings

Working on the set of Vikings brought some authenticity to the experience for Sutherland, and that authenticity helped her to portray the character of Aslaug. “Everything–every detail, from the sets, the costumes, the hair and the make up, the props… Absolutely everything has so much detail in it.  I’ve been on other sets and it feels a little bit like a set.”

She says with the Vikings series, it’s a different experience.  “Everything is so realistic.  It’s really hard to describe unless someone sees it.  It just makes being in character and being a part of the story so much easier for an actor.”

Catch the Season Two premiere of Vikings tonight at 9 p.m. Central/10 p.m. Eastern on the History Channel.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg

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