August 31, 2015

Iron Danger will rise

Concept art from Iron Danger depicts an Illuminated sky protecting the City of Kalevala from the evil forces of the North.
Concept art from Iron Danger depicts an Illuminated sky protecting the City of Kalevala from the evil forces of the North.
Tuomas Korpi

Finland’s national epic, Kalevala, is experiencing a 21st century facelift. With this in mind, keep an eye out for the tank-bears next time you are out gallivanting about the countryside.

“We want to tell Finnish stories and make Finnish culture known around the world,” enthuses Sami Timonen, director of the new multi-media project, Iron Danger.

“We want to tell Finnish stories and make Finnish culture known around the world,” enthuses Sami Timonen.

Iron danger

Numerous notable students have walked the esteemed grounds of Oxford University, yet how many do we know have had trouble returning their library books in a timely fashion? Well, count one JRR Tolkien among them, who accumulated a fine in 1912 that was believed to be for a copy of A Finnish Grammar.

But why would the acclaimed author of The Lord of the Rings have been interested in the head scratching complexities of Finland’s native tongue? Well, it turns out that Tolkien was so inspired by Elias Lönnrot’s Kalevala that he eventually used Finnish as the basis for Middle Earth’s fictional language of Elvish.

Kalevala is undoubtedly the most revered of Finnish texts. Comprised of a collection of mythical poems originally passed from person to person, the national epic is now set for an update for the Millennial Generation.

“We want to tell Finnish stories and make Finnish culture known around the world,” enthuses Sami Timonen, director of the new multi-media project, Iron Danger. “But, we have to reach them in a way that the modern audience can grasp.”

For Timonen, this means that Kalevala’s main character Väinämöinen is now a ripped, muscle-bound hero. Armed with a hoe, he faces off against mechanical ‘tank-bears’ ridden by the gatekeeper of a northern fortress that houses a precious magical artefact.

“The vision that Sami had was so bold and outrageous,” says producer Konsta Klemetti. “I really like that he took this really cherished cultural heritage that we possess in Finland and then re-imagined it as a modern Commando-thing.”

Collaborative spirit

The idea first came to Timonen five years ago. After much tinkering with the concept, he asked his colleagues at Angry Birds games studio Rovio if they would be interested in helping him realise his vision. Before long he had amassed over 150 employees from Rovio, Supercell and numerous other Finnish companies, who each volunteered their spare time to create a proof of concept trailer.

We are not only making a movie, it is a whole world.

Now, after the fruits of their labour left audiences stunned at last year’s startup event Slush, the team is busy gathering financing in order to develop the project even further than they first imagined.

“We are not only making a movie, it is a whole world,” explains Klemetti. “We are making games – obviously Helsinki is now a hotbed of the gaming industry – then we want to expand the whole idea: books comics and number of different movies or TV shows.”

A modern approach

But amidst this flurry of activity are there any reservations about rebooting such sacred text for a modern audience?

“We feel we are part of the folklore, we are the new storytellers,” Klemetti continues. “It’s the time of mobile games, we don’t have to tell this in a book form; we are telling it in a new way.

According to Klemetti the response to the project thus far has been overwhelmingly positive, with audiences enthusiastic that the world so vividly presented by Lönnrot is being brought to life for new audiences.

With Finland’s 100th anniversary of independence beckoning in 2017, the first Iron Danger project to arrive on shelves is shaping up to be a game. With his dream so tantalisingly close to becoming a reality, Timonen is brimming with enthusiasm to share his vision with the world.

“Hopefully this story pumps the younger audience up about Finnish culture. It would be fantastic.”

Text: James O’Sullivan

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