‘The Northman’ Will Be A Hit With Film Lovers

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Robert Eggers’ new Viking feature, The Northman, is in many ways a miracle in its sheer existence. During an era where major film studios are more encouraged than ever to play it safe, Focus Features apparently trusted Eggers enough not to mess with his craft – at least that’s the impression one would get while watching the new action flick. Eggers is a very niche arthouse filmmaker, so the fact that mainstream producers essentially gave him a bigger budget and a more famous cast to do whatever he wanted is surprising and impressive. And if you were a fan hesitant to embrace the director with his new commercial status, don’t worry. He’s still the artist you fell for, just at an even more extreme level now.

The Northman takes us all the way back to ancient Iceland in 895-914 AD. Prince Amleth (portrayed as a child by Oscar Novak, and as an adult by Alexander Skarsgård) makes it his life mission to avenge his father, King Aurvandill’s (Ethan Hawke), assassination and his mother, Queen Gudrún’s (Nicole Kidman), kidnapping. The man responsible for both is the King’s own brother Fjölnir (Claes Bang), who is now in charge of the kingdom of Hrafnsey himself. After escaping Fjölnir’s massacre as an adolescent, Amleth returns home as an adult, along with a maiden named Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), to kill his uncle.

Willem Dafoe appears in the first act as an overly animated jester-meets-mentor of Aurvandill, and Björk makes a rare film appearance as a mystic Amleth comes across. It should be stated, The Northman isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for someone. People like my mother – who don’t care for graphic gore or artsy fartsy pictures like Eggers’ previous films The Witch (2015) and The Lighthouse (2019) – will not appreciate The Northman. Movie fans who are fond of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (1995) or Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000) will probably like The Northman. In fact, if David Lowery’s The Green Knight (2021) was your thing, then you’ll get a lot out of this Icelandic tale.

Eggers basically put all his usual techniques and style into a very brutal retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet with movie stars. No one is better cast as a Scandinavian anti-hero than Skarsgård, and it’s nice to see Eggers and Taylor-Joy reunited eight years following The Witch. A-listers like Hawke, Kidman, and Dafoe aren’t too distracting in The Northman, as they all have limited screen time compared to Skarsgård, Bang, and Taylor-Joy. And to those who were most interested in seeing alternative music artist Björk on film again since Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark (2000); her screen time is literally under two minutes, unfortunately.

While I’m hyping The Northman up as a unique viewing experience in contemporary cinema, it’s not perfect either. The first hour is stronger, structurally, and there’s some underdevelopment with Kidman’s character that’s noticeable. And we should probably be rolling our eyes at the 20-year age gap between Skarsgård and Taylor-Joy, though they do make an attractive on-screen couple. But if your thing is good looking, talented actors battling each other while covered in mud and blood, accompanied with some extravagant aesthetics and moody speeches, then go all ahead with The Northman.


Does ‘The Northman’ look interesting to you? Do you like Viking movies? Tell us in the comments!

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