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Directors: Kresten Vestbjerg Andersen, Thorbjørn Christoffersen & Philip Einstein Lipski
Release date:
September 29, 2011
Rating:
 
★★★
Review:

Arguably the least serious animated feature to be released in 2011 is a surprising little entry from Denmark called ‘Ronal the Barbarian’. The film is set in a bare fantasy world called ‘Metallonia’, and makes fun of many sword and sorcery tropes, as well as ‘Lord of the Rings’ and several leather metal cliches from the early eighties. Especially fans of Judas Priest should be delighted. In this respect, the end song accompanying the end titles is one of the film’s highlights, spoofing e.g. Led Zeppelin and Queen.

With its men walking around in tiny strings, with its lusty amazonians, with an oracle on a toilet, and with its many references to sex this could be a film too immature for its own good, but actually, the film makers play their story surprisingly straight, and despite all the parody and nonsense the film does have heart. It does help that fun is made of both male and female characters, and neither the overblown machos nor the incapable amazonians can be taken too seriously.

‘Ronal the Barbarian’ tells about Ronal, the only barbarian of ‘the tribe of Kron’ to be feeble, cowardly, and weak. When on one day his whole tribe is kidnapped and taken away, he must go on a dreaded quest, helped by an oversexed teenager bard called Alibert, by a very strong and heroic “shield maiden” called Zandra, and by a rather silly hippie-like elf called Elric.

Unfortunately, the characters are little more than vignettes. Ronal, to begin with, has little to counter his weakness. He seems to be a bit smarter than his fellow tribe members, but he’s far from cunning, and certainly not instantly likeable: during the first half of the film, he’s often whining and moaning, which makes the budding love story between him and Zandra hard to believe. Ronal’s transition to a more heroic character is more believable, especially because he remains clumsy and weak until the very end.

Alibert, too, is a character on the shallow side: his interest in dames is practically his only character trait, but he fails as comic relief, but not as a friend. In the end, he is as loyal to Ronal as Sam to Frodo. Elric isn’t a round character at all, but a pure caricature of everything elfish as depicted in Peter Jackson’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. Most interesting of the four is shield maiden Zandra, because she must deal with a tradition that is a curse to her. Zandra’s subplot is vital to the film and make it into a deeper product than could be expected.

Unfortunately, Zandra is not designed too well. Her eyes remind too often those of South Park characters, and as she’s depicted as being quite stout and clearly older than the puny Ronal, making their romance less likely, again.

The quest story ticks all the familiar boxes: there’s an evil and almost invincible opponent, there’s a heavily guarded hidden kingdom, there’s a legend important to the plot, and there’s even room for the all too obligate breakup scene so common in animation films these years. And, of course, Ronal does grow into the hero he has to be in the end. But I must say the film makers tell their tale well, and there are no dead points or superfluous scenes during the film whatsoever. The focus stays with Ronal most of the time, and even when it doesn’t, the scenes still serve the plot completely.

For a European film the 3D computer animation is fair, if not outstanding. The rendering is on the poor side, but it does its job, and the world building is convincing enough for the story. The animation, too, is most of the time okay if nothing to write home about. Especially the animation on lesser characters is visibly mediocre, and there’s little character animation, although the animators do their best in two scenes in which the thought processes of respectively Ronal and Zandra are depicted. But, as most of the action is far from serious, and even rather silly, most of the animation does its job quite nicely. Like the designs, the animation is often broad and jerky, enhancing the comic effect. The effect animation itself, too, is excellent, and helps the world building a lot, especially during the finale.

‘Ronal the Barbarian’ is no masterpiece, but as said, the film is told well, and accounts for 90 minutes of pure fine entertainment. It’s no more than that, but the film clearly doesn’t aspire to. So I’d say: quest fulfilled!

Watch the trailer for ‘Ronal the Barbarian’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Ronal the Barbarian’ is available on Blu-Ray and DVD

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