Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Almighty Johnsons: Season 1 Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
The Johnson brothers, Mike, Anders, Ty, and Axl, are far from ordinary – they are descendants of Norse gods. Upon turning 21, each brother secretly became a Norse god with his own powers, except that their powers are not all that powerful anymore. With guidance from the family oracle (their eternally young grandfather Olaf) and with the help of his brothers, Axl, as the human incarnation of Odin, god of wisdom, victory, and magic, must embark upon his life’s quest, to find Frigg, his beloved. The family prophecy states that only when Odin and Frigg are reunited will the house of Asgard be rebuilt and the Gods will rule again – unless their nemeses, the power-hungry Goddesses, can stop the Johnsons and find Frigg first!
Show (3 out of 5 stars)
The Almighty Johnsons is the story of a unique New Zealand family. Youngest child Axl (Emmett Skilton) is about to celebrate his 21st birthday. He is brought into the woods for a strange gathering where he learns that he and his family are reincarnated Gods from Norse mythology. His cousin Olaf (Ben Barrington) is actually their grandfather Baldr, the oracle. His cocky brother Anders (Dean O’Gorman) is the God Bragi who has the power to control people with his words. Ty (Hoor) radiates cold and is a danger to mortals who touch him for too long. Oldest brother Mike (Tim Balme) is Ullr, a God with the gift of luck in hunting and games. After reading all the signs, Olaf determines that Axl is the God Odin.

Axl soon learns that a quest is at hand. He must find the Goddess Frig who could be reincarnated as anyone, anywhere. If Axl dies without completing the quest, his family will die to. If he finds Frig, his family will receive their full God powers. Unfortunately a band of Goddesses is trying to stop Axl, willing to kill him or Frigg if necessary. The Johnson’s all have real lives that don’t involve mythology. Mike is a contractor who is married, and has struggled with fertility issues. Axl has two roommates, one is his best friend and the other he is in love with. Anders runs a PR business and Ty (Jared Turner) is a refrigerator repair man. They cannot tell anyone outside the family who they really are, or there are severe consequences. Older brother Mike raised his siblings, especially youngest Axl after their Goddess mother decided to become a tree.

As a huge fan of "Firefly," I have a special place in my heart for shows that were cancelled and brought back. "The Almighty Johnsons" was cancelled after season two, and international fan protests, including an on-line petition resurrected it for a third and final season. I personally had never heard of the show and didn’t discover why they were almighty until receiving the season one Blu-ray. "The Almighty Johnsons" is a very odd television show. It grew on me quickly and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next two seasons. It takes a minute for an American to get past the accents and the talk of things like “net ball”. 

I expect people to either love or hate this show. It’s definitely not going to be for everyone but it worked for me. I’m intrigued by all these New Zealand actors I’ve never heard of, especially Ben Barrington, who plays a big part of the show but doesn’t get a place on the Blu-ray cover with the other Johnsons. By most American television standards, this appears to be a very low budget show with few sets locations. Again, I didn’t mind that but others might. It’s like a New Zealand soap opera with a bit of mythology mixed in. If you’re looking for an in depth look at the Norse Gods and their history this isn’t for you and will likely be annoying. Also, with a bit of foul language, nudity and adult situations, this is not for young children.
Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
"The Almighty Johnsons" although low budget, appears to have been shot digitally. The AVC encoded presentation offers sharp images in a 1.78:1 ratio. Skin tones and textures appear accurate and clarity is good in daylight, indoors and at night. There are few special effects to push the limits but I was happy with the video quality overall, and it was significantly better than I’d expected.
Audio (3 out of 5 stars)
"The Almighty Johnsons" provides a very basic 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, which is satisfactory for this dialogue driven television show. Even with the accents, dialogue is clear and intelligible and volume won’t need to be adjusted.
Extras (1 1/2 out of 5 stars)
"The Almighty Johnsons" Season One only contains ten episodes and the special features included are extremely brief.
  • Commentary – Audio Commentary for "It's Kind of a Birthday Present" with actors Tim Balme and Emmet Skilton, and Director Mark Beesley. 
  • Interviews – Just under five minutes of cast interviews providing an overview of the story and characters.
    Summary (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
    By the second episode this show will either hook you or irritate you. For mythology buffs, it will probably produce the latter result. It’s different and unique enough to keep me interested. I was sad to learn that season one only included ten episodes. I doubt the odd-ball qualities would have kept me interested for years’ worth of episodes but I’m interested to see where the next season takes the Johnsons. It’s not the best thing you’ll ever see but if you keep your mind open and enjoy not thinking too hard, you might be entertained.

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