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Sword of Xanten (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: N/A

THE mythology surrounding The Sword of Xanten supposedly provided the inspiration for Richard Wagner's opera, The Ring Cycle, as well as JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it fails to provide any sort of inspiration for the film.

Instead, German director, Uli Edel's movie feels like a weary re-tread of countless other epics, including Homer's Odyssey (or Troy in film-form) and The Vikings to boot, which comes laden with a truly wooden performance from its central protagonist.

German-born Benno Furmann heads the cast as Siegfried - The Dragon-Slayer, an apparently simple blacksmith who is unaware of his true heritage.

The movie begins with a prologue chronicling the way in which his father, the King of Xanten, is betrayed and killed by some evil twins, forcing Siegfried to narrowly escape with his life.

Brought up by a fellow blacksmith (played by Max von Sydow), Siegfried appears content with his life until the Gods send him a sign of his destiny in the form of a fallen meteor, the debris from which provides him with a rare metal from which to forge an invincible sword, as well as a meeting with the woman who will become his love, Brunhild, the Valkyrie warrior queen (T3's Kristianna Loken).

Duty, however, tears them apart and Siegfried travels to the kingdom of Burgund to fulfil his destiny.

During the course of his journey, he gains the respect of King Gunther, as well as the love of Princess Kriemhild (Alicia Witt), but must battle a powerful evil that has been plaguing the land for some time.

Hence, Siegfried must battle the dragon, Fafnir, and claim the dragon's gold as his own - a feat which brings with it a curse from the gold's rightful owners, the mystic Nibelungs, as well as the hatred of King Gunther's adviser, Hagen (Julian Sands), who covets the gold for himself.

Siegfried's victory agains the dragon renders him invincible (with only one weak spot), yet the curse he subsequently inherits gradually manifests itself so that mortality beckons for the plucky blacksmith and many of those who dare cross him.

With so much mythology behind it, it's little wonder that Sword of Xanten clocks in at well in excess of two hours, but anyone expecting an epic to rival The Lord of the Rings is sure to be sorely disappointed.

The movie is constantly hindered by a lacklustre script and some truly bland performances, which tests the patience long before the halfway stage.

While the effects are not-so special as to leave viewers decidedly under-whelmed.

Anyone in search of a little fantasy is therefore urged to wait for the DVD or catch it on television, as this is where Edel's movie feels better suited.

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