From visionary director Robert Eggers comes The Northman, an action-filled epic that follows a young Viking prince on his quest to avenge his father’s murder. With an all-star cast that includes Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Björk, and Willem Dafoe.
What We Thought:
Did you like The Witch and The Lighthouse, the first two films from Robert Eggers? Well then you will like The Northman. If on the other hand you are a normal movie goer expecting a historical action movie like Braveheart or Troy, you will not like The Northman. It’s a movie film nerds on social media will praise and it’s also a movie normal people will be bored with and not understand. I believe it was Ethan Hawke (who’s in the film) that said you need a PhD in Norse Mythology to understand the movie.
As for me, well I actually love Norse Mythology. I used to wear a chain with Mjolnir on it and am a huge fan of Viking based media whether it’s movies, TV shows or books. I’m not the biggest fan of Eggers, but I was hoping his latest film would be different since it had a huge budget and seemed more like a straight forward studio film compared to his previous more independent ones. What did I think of The Northman? There are things I liked about it and things I did not. I’ll start with the positives.
Alexander Skarsgård is absolutely fantastic as Amleth, the Viking warrior prince who as a child watches his uncle murder his father. He escapes and swears revenge on his uncle and all that follow him. This Norse story is what inspired William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Skarsgård looks like a Norse god physically and like his father, is a tremendous actor. I actually think he’s an underrated actor and his performance here proves it. He dominates every scene he’s in handling the drama and action with ease. Easily his best performance to date.
The action in the film is what I expected. Eggers goes for a more historical portrayal with Seaxes and Viking axes and lots of blood and gore. It is hand-to-hand combat with berserkers and over-the-top violence. I love that stuff and when the film focuses on the revenge and action it’s great. Unfortunately the action sequences are few and far between although people will be talking about that last action sequence for years.
That leads me to the negatives. It is slow. It feels every bit of its 136 minutes. Skarsgård hides himself as a slave to gain travel to Iceland to get his revenge on his uncle and once there it moves slowly. Too much time is focused on Anya Taylor-Joy’s character’s relationship with Skarsgård and I thought most of that could be cut from the film to get to the same conclusion. It’s very drawn out, but if you’ve seen The Witch and The Lighthouse that is very much Eggers’ style.
I’m not sure what movie Nicole Kidman thought she was in, but she feels very out of place in this one. At no point did I take her for a Norse queen. I think Kidman’s a fantastic actress, but she just didn’t do it for me here. Other than Skarsgård and Claes Bang who plays the uncle, most of the cast just didn’t seem to fit the time period.
I can’t say I disliked The Northman because there is a lot I did like, but if you know nothing of Norse mythology you will be utterly confused. Between seers, ravens, Valkyries, and other rituals that were part of Norse traditions, people won’t have a clue what’s happening. The revenge plot is easy enough to follow, but the rest will go over the audience’s head. Unless it goes gangbusters in the UK and Ireland, it’s going to struggle to make back its $70-90 million budget.
Director/Writer: Robert Eggers
Producers: Lars Knudsen, Mark Huffman, New Regency
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gustav Lindh, Ethan Hawke, Björk, and Willem Dafoe
Running Time: 136 minutes