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Originally published Saturday, September 10, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Vikings" ventures beyond plunder

The ominous opening moments of the new IMAX film "Vikings: Journey to New Worlds" offer a haunting idea of what the first seconds of the...

Special to The Seattle Times

The ominous opening moments of the new IMAX film "Vikings: Journey to New Worlds" offer a haunting idea of what the first seconds of the Viking Age — an era that began in A.D. 793 and would last approximately 300 years — might have looked like.

On a fog-shrouded morning in Lindisfarne, England, a lone monk examines a rocky beach, perhaps foraging for shellfish. Suddenly, in the distance, dragon-shaped prow heads of three Viking longships pierce the haze.

A short time later, curious residents of a peaceful monastery, watching armored foreigners come ashore with terrible weapons, are slaughtered or carried off as slaves. (There's no actual violence on screen.)

Now playing

3.5 stars

"Vikings: Journey to New Worlds," directed by Marc Fafard. Not rated; suggestions of impending violence, but no violent images. 45 minutes. Pacific Science Center IMAX Theaters.

While Vikings have been popularly depicted as ancient raiders of Europe's coastline, there is far more to their story than that, the visually grand "New Worlds" tells us. First of all, Vikings weren't looking to plunder so much as expand their property holdings. In an age when agriculture was crucial for survival and trading, fertile land was everything, and Vikings grabbed it up from Istanbul to the legendary Vinland: North American Viking colonies stretching, according to some archaeological evidence, from Newfoundland to what is now Rhode Island. (Vikings beat Columbus to the New World by 500 years.)

The stunning aerial photography of "New Worlds," splashed large on Pacific Science Center's Eames IMAX Theater screen, shows us the otherworldly beauty of lands the Vikings discovered — Iceland, Greenland — during their westward expansion.

Viking achievements in art, government and science are brought to life in this film through colorful enactments of everyday living in settlements. Computer-generated special effects give us a seamless view of what Viking homes and churches looked like before falling to ruin.

While its narration could be more exciting, "New Worlds" is still an engrossing experience, clarifying much about a vital culture that dominated the early Middle Ages.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

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