A trimmed down version of a three-hour, made-for-German-TV epic loosely based on Wagner's opera The Ring Of The Nibelung, Sword Of Xanten stars Benno Fürmann (The Sin Eater) as a dragon-slaying blacksmith who's destined to marry the Queen of Iceland (T3 Terminatrix Kristianna Løken), but is dragged off course by a magic potion that makes him fall for the wrong damsel (Alicia Witt). A Teutonic Tolkien cash-in light on brains, brawn and budget, Xanten is fantasy cinema at its least fantastic.
Forget Wagner's rousing tale of passion and magic rings, this feels more like one of those disposable pulp novels to be found lining the shelves of the bookshop's fantasy section with gaudy covers that usually feature archaic symbols, scantily clad women and the odd elf. The dialogue's about as well-written ("Be patient child, Odin's powers are in the runes but they won't be rushed") and lead actor Fürmann is even more wooden than the Austrian Oak was when he last stepped into Conan The Barbarian's sandals. Without the pecs to guarantee respect, Fürmann's dragon's blood-enhanced hero twirls his sword so feverishly you begin to wonder if it's a substitute for something else.
"OLD WARRIORS GO TO VALHALLA, OLD ACTORS GO TO GERMAN TV"
Meanwhile, Løken plays the Queen of Iceland as an ice queen, and there's a supporting cast ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous: Max Von Sydow tops up his pension as Siegfried's surrogate father (old warriors go to Valhalla, old actors go to German TV), and Julian Sands hams it up as a villain who spends so long smirking it's a wonder the entire kingdom hasn't rumbled his evil plans.
With no cash for anything much more than some turgid natter, this sword'n'sorcery epic will only keep the fantasy faithful happy. The rest of us should follow the inadvertent advice of Von Sydow's blacksmith and dig out that Lord Of The Rings DVD again: "My best blade is forged, there's no need to bother with lesser ones."