The Stream: Very dark, humorless and bogged down in mythic lore
The Big Screen: Bloody, stylish and great energy from the committed cast
The Final Bill: A violent epic told with a poetic flourish is difficult to navigate at times– Trip Fontaine
Director: Robert Eggers
Writers: Robert Eggers and Sjón
Stars: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Ethan Hawke, and Anya Taylor-Joy
Genre: Drama, Action
Rating: R for strong bloody violence, some sexual content and nudity
Runtime: 2 hours 9 minutes
Production Companies: New Regency Productions, Focus Features, Perfect World Pictures, Square Peg, Universal Pictures
Platform: In theaters April 22, 2022
Trailers: Bullet Train, Elvis, Jurassic World Dominion, Men, Nope
Hey, Streamers! I know it’s another Marvel weekend, but there are other movies out there not connected to the franchise. For instance, The Northman was released in theaters in late April, and it’s a great alternative even for the Marvel stans. Who doesn’t want to see grimy Vikings rip through villages wreaking havoc? Who doesn’t want to revel in a revenge epic? Don’t you want The Lion King as a bloody meditation on family, betrayal and Scandanavian mysticism? Well, here’s how The Northman spoke to me.
Robert Eggers directed, and co-wrote, with Sjon this epic revenge tale of The Northman. Set in 895 AD, this movie tells the story of Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard), a Viking warrior prince, who witnesses the murder of his father, King Aurvandill War-Raven (Ethan Hawke), by his uncle, Fjolnir (Claes Bang). This murder takes place when Amleth is a young boy, and Amleth escapes getting killed himself as Fjolnir wants to take over the thrown. Amleth vows to avenge his father, save his mother, Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman), and kill his uncle. Years later, Amleth returns to fulfill his destiny with the help of a prophecy from a witch and the support of a love interest. Yes, that sounds a lot like The Lion King and Hamlet.
Eggers was meticulous about recreating the grimy and grueling life of these Vikings. The villages are filled with mud and muck. The people look authentic to the time. The costumes are impeccable. You can smell the blood and sweat through the screen. The film is shot in such a starkly beautiful way that it’s almost disorienting. There is always something interesting to look at, and the camera moves in such a way to keep you intrigued. Since the story is pretty basic, the attention to detail of its surroundings fills in the gaps and gives the movie more texture.
For a revenge epic to be successful, there has to be a hero to root for and a villain to hate. Skargard makes Amleth a righteous hero. He’s stoic and singularly focused. Skargards has done the work to be a convincing warrior and you wouldn’t want to get in his way. Clase Bang as Fjolnir is a worthy foe. He’s dastardly and the worst uncle since Scar. Bang makes Fjolnir formidable. The rest of the cast is great too in their limited screentime. Some accents are wonky, but you get used to it.
Ultimately, The Northman is good counterprogramming to the Marvel Universe. It has a simple story that is told with complex dialogue and a lot of attention to detail. The film is so meticulous that you can almost feel the grime and smell the blood and sweat. If you want a violent, revenge epic, then The Northman should scratch that itch. Get a big box of popcorn for your trip to the theater.