A submarine born virus, a quarantined city and infected monsters are the key ingredients of Operation Ragnarok, which opened yesterday in Swedish cinemas, after an exceptionally long production period.
Formerly known as Zone 261, writer-director Fredrik Hiller’s Operation Ragnarok (original title: Operation Ragnarök) will be the last Swedish horror/fantasy film to premiere in 2018, which has been a good year for genre entries; Alone in Space for the young ones, Border for the artsy folks, The unthinkable for the disaster hungry, and Hermit: Monster Killer and Sargad for the low budget fans. Let’s add the dystopian drama Winter is coming to the list as well. Operation Ragnarok has been on its way for a whopping 8 years, a very long production even for an independent, relatively low budget film as this. We first reported on the film in 2010 when it was supposed to come out in 2012, and then in 2014 when it aimed for a 2014 or 2015 launch. The film’s website also posted a news item that 2016 would see the film in cinemas, but it took until now to get the film ready. So what is the long touted film about?
A midsize city in southern Sweden is infected by a virus that turns people into monsters. In order to prevent the infection from spreading, the town is quarantined by the military. A small group of Swedish and immigrant non-infected persons take shelter in the old citadel. While the monsters approach, the old conflicts between the Swedish natives and the immigrants escalate to the point of no return. The two groups have to decide which the true monsters are: The infected on the outside – or the old enemies on the inside?
According to the film’s website, the film “is an action drama about the ability to see through our hatred and fear of the unknown, and how we can achieve inner and outer peace by ceasing to create monsters out of our fellow men. Zone 261 is 28 days later meets Romeo & Juliet. Zone 261 is packed with action, chases, shoot-outs and explosions – as well as drama, romance, comic relief and colorful characters.” In 2016 the film changed its title to Operation Ragnarok, named after the mythological disaster that would end the world, according to the Vikings. In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is a series of future events, including a great battle, foretold to ultimately result in the death of several gods, the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water. The change of title was introduced due to political developments in recent years, with right-wing populism, xenophobia and authoritarian movements growing.
The film’s planning and financing started several years ago, with the first trailer arriving in 2010. After shooting wrapped in November 2013, the film was in post-production a few years. Reportedly made on a budget of 22 million SEK (about 2.1 million euros / 2.3 million dollars), mostly provided by private money and sponsors, the film is one of the biggest independent genre films to be made in Sweden. It boasts more than 1000 special effects, from monster faces to removing cars. -However, the film is not really a monster movie, it’s an action drama. It’s about the built-in fear we humans have in us. We tend to project what we don’t like about ourselves on groups of other people, Fredrik Hiller said to the newspaper HD.
The film has so far been met with mostly bad reviews, and was awarded only two of five points by Aftonbladet, Corren, Filmeye and Moviezine, and only one of five points by GöteborgsPosten, Nöjesguiden, Filmtopp, Toppraffel, Dagens Nyheter and GeekNinjas. However, many of the bad reviews point out that the film has cult potential:
- Corren: “Most things are a bit off in this film, but I still like it. There are some nice scenes among the disasterous ones, and I suspect the film might become a beloved cult classic.”
- MovieZine: “The tone of the film is all over the place as it changes from funny for the wrong reasons to a 1990s action thriller between scenes. You can sense the tongue-in-cheek attitude […] and in a way the film is something else than a normal zombie film. It raises concerns about current questions in a different way which makes it difficult to rate fairly. It’s full score on the turkey scale though, and if you compare the film to the work of the king of B movies, Uwe Boll, there is a lot of entertainment value.”
- GeekNinjas: “You can’t deny there are appealing things in the movie. Sure, the side story about immigration in Sweden and how some people look upon that is a bit too serious. Sure, the film leaves us with some plot holes and the editing is a mess and in some action scenes you don’t understand what’s going on. Sure, the film reminds us about films from The Asylum. But, you’re never bored and you’ll always have a smile on your face and laugh and enjoy your time with the film.”
- Nöjesguiden: “I felt confused when writing this review. Is the film ironic? Am I unable to appreciate the B-movie aesthetics? Is it even a B-movie? I’m fully aware that I’m kicking in an open door by criticizing the film, but no matter how I try to justify it; this just ain’t a good movie. I may have to eat my words one day though, if the film reaches cult film status.”
- Filmtopp: “Operation Ragnarok has an interesting message of xenophobia and how we are all just people, at the end of the day. This theme is firmly integrated in the [script]. The problem is that [the script is also] peppered by terrible dialogue, weird explanations and logical flaws. The plot holes are big enough to sail Titanic through them.”
- Toppraffel: “There are no thrill rides, the scary scenes are not scary, and the film has no sense of humour. Unless you count the involuntarily comical moments. The film’s anti-racist message is so in-your-face that it [contributes to preventing] a good movie.”
- Aftonbladet: “God dammit, genre films must be made in Sweden, even if the Swedish Film Institute’s [gender rules] does not allow any money for it […] A lot of movie for little money. The film is never boring, and is probably the best Swedish bad movie of the year.”
- FLM: “I can’t really say when the film is intentionally funny and when it’s [making an ass of itself]. Maybe that doesn’t matter […] A lof of people will massacre Operation Ragnarok, but it may grow into a proper cult film. And that’s not so bad.”
The cast of Operation Ragnarok includes Jonas Malmsjö (Psalm 21, Ingmar Bergman), Fredrik Hiller (Beowoulf, The bridge), Per Ragnar (Let the right one in), Bahar Pars (Gåsmamman, A Man Called Ove), Björn Bengtsson (Robin Hood, The last kingdom, Johan Falk), Malin Arvidsson (Arne Dahl, Psalm 21), Dag Malmberg (The bridge), Rafael Edholm (Wallander), Jarmo Mäkinen (Vares, Höök).
The 99 minute film opened Friday and currently runs in these Swedish cinemas: Alvesta (fhp), Bengtsfors (Våra gårdar), Bestorp (fhp), Bromma (Högland), Bräcke (fhp), Gislaved (fhp), Grebbestad, Gävle (Filmstaden), Gävle (7:an), Göteborg (Biopalatset), Hallstavik (fhp), Halmstad (Svenska Bio), Haparanda (fhp), Hemse, Hjo (fhp), Karlstad (Filmstaden), Kungsbacka (Svenska Bio), Landsbro (Saga), Landskrona (Svenska Bio), Lindesberg, Lund (Folkets Bio), Lycksele (fhp), Malmö (Folkets Bio), Norrköping (Filmstaden), Nossebro (fhp), Nybro (Våra gårdar), Olofström (Grand), Osby (fhp), Rundvik (fhp), Skutskär (fhp), Stockholm (Sergel, Kista, Heron, Scandinavia), Storfors, Strömsund (fhp), Sundsvall (Filmstaden), Surahammar (fhp), Svalöv (fhp), Sölvesborg (Scala), Tullinge (Sländan), Töreboda, Umeå (Filmstaden), Uppsala (Filmstaden), Varberg (Svenska Bio), Vissefjärda (fhp), Vännäs (fhp), Västerås (Filmstaden), Växjö (Filmstaden), Ånge (fhp), Örebro (Filmstaden), Österbymo (fhp), Östervåla (fhp), Övertorneå (fhp). FHP = Folkets hus & park.
Early teaser posters and alternate designs: