“The Northman” is directed by Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse, The Witch) and stars Alexander Skarsgård (The Legend of Tarzan, Big Little Lies), Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos, Bombshell), Claes Bang (The Burnt Orange Heresy, The Girl in the Spider’s Web), Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma., The Queen’s Gambit), Ethan Hawke (Moon Knight, First Reformed), Björk, and Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, Platoon). This film is about Prince Amleth, who loses his father and sees his mother get captured at a young age. Holding an infinite desire to avenge his father and save his mother, Amleth joins a band of Vikings, who raise him as a berserker.
Robert Eggers is a filmmaker I do not traditionally think about all that much, but I have grown to respect him. If anything, I think my experience with Robert Eggers is equal to my experience with Ari Aster, who released “Hereditary” in 2018, and followed it up with “Midsommar” in 2019. Well, specifically, I mean this in reverse. Because the first movie I saw from Eggers was “The Witch,” which despite its quirky shots and angles, and non-traditional aspect ratio, left me feeling icky to the point where I hated myself for watching it. The next movie I saw from him, which if for some reason if you are still on the Robert Pattinson hate train, I recommend you watch, is “The Lighthouse.” That movie ended up being one of the most wonderfully weird films I have watched… Probably ever. Looking back, it kind of makes me want to invite a bro or two to my place, bring out some drinks, and dance to some old timey songs like maniacs.
Seriously, if “dope” had a current dictionary definition, they should literally implement this scene into it.
But with that said, I think it is important to note that my feelings regarding “The Northman” going into it were rather positive. I was gonna go see “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” but due to a conflict regarding someone I planned to see it with, it did not look like such a thing would work out. So I decided to use what free time I had and go see this movie instead.
It was… Interesting.
I feel like one of the best and worst things about films made by directors like Robert Eggers is that you probably don’t know all of what you’re going to get. But it doesn’t mean that Eggers’s quirkiness can always potentially sacrifice good storytelling. In fact, my first notable positive of the film is that the first act has pretty much everything I could want out of a movie like this. It properly sets up the world, solidly introduces some of the characters, including our main protagonist, has surprisingly halfway decent toilet humor, and even a menacingly intriguing presence from Willem Dafoe. The more I think about Willem Dafoe, the more I admire him as a performer. He practically commits to just about anything he chooses to do. I would love to see a role of his where he’s just sitting on the couch, watching television, and I am sure he’d still have the potential to be recognized during awards season. His role in the movie is not a big one, but it is one that I am sure if you saw it, you definitely won’t forget it. Unfortunately, I probably have forgotten about some of this movie. Partially because it has been a few weeks since I have seen it, but if you take out all of the weirdness of the film, some of the traits that are taken from other, perhaps better stories become more noticeable. And it would be fine if the rest of the movie kept my interest, but I will be real with you, I was checking the time to find out when the heck this thing was going to end.
I did not hate this film as much as “The Witch,” but I certainly did not adore it as much as “The Lighthouse.”
This is the biggest feature Eggers has done yet. Between a full-scale adventure that spans from land to water to the large cast, this movie ain’t small. Like, take the cast of “The Lighthouse” and multiply it by 25 or something. And I think the cast overall did a really good job. Alexander Skarsgård is incredibly convincing is a brooding, gritty main hero who wants nothing more than to avenge his father’s death. And I should not be surprised considering how he played Tarzan in the past in, coincidentally, another movie I maybe do not plan to watch again anytime soon despite liking when I saw it.
Nicole Kidman also gives one of the best performances in the film, delivering convincing line after convincing line, she is a true chameleon. I will also point out her look for this film. It blends in perfectly with the time period this movie is going for.
I would also like to give a mention to Anya Taylor-Joy because in addition to her well-executed performance as Olga of the Birch Forest, this movie seems to show that Eggers is bringing in his favorite co-workers from the past, either that, or actors really like working with him. Perhaps both ideas click here. We’ve seen Eggers bring back Willem Dafoe for a small role, Anya Taylor-Joy was also directed by Eggers in “The Witch.” When I think of actor/director relationships, my mind instantly goes to Michael Caine and Christopher Nolan, or Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi, or Bill Murray and Wes Anderson. I will likely be watching more of Eggers’s work if he decides to make more movies, so I will be curious if either of these actors will become a mainstay for Eggers and continue to work together for every movie they do. It’s show business, not show friends, but sometimes business can allow you to make friends along the way.
This movie had a great start, and frankly an intriguing visual outlook to it. One of the best things about a movie or a TV show is that it make you forget where you are. I did not feel like I was watching this movie somewhere in Burlington, Massachusetts, I instead felt like I was transported to the high seas. I think this movie manages to capture a better sense of escapism compared to some others I have seen. As much as I liked “The Tender Bar,” the escapism does not feel as authentic when you remember that Long Island does not have candlepin bowling. That said, I did not hate this movie, I just wish the story and characters brought me in as much as the quirks and visuals did.
In the end, “The Northman” is a movie that is DEFINITELY not for everyone, and I honestly do not know if it was for me. And it feels odd saying that, because I like a stylistic movie. I like a movie that is different. But I also like the classic hero’s journey. But I have seen weird done better. I have seen the hero’s journey done better. I’ve seen an uncle killing their nephew’s father in front of their own eyes done better in “The Lion King!” Well, the 1994 one, the new one is a waste of time. I probably will watch this movie again at some point, I don’t know when specifically, because I think it could warrant a second viewing. Although for now, I don’t hate the movie, but I do not particularly love it either. Let’s meet near the middle in terms of the verdict and confirm that I am giving “The Northman” a 6/10. It’s a positive grade because a lot of the movie’s strengths are evident and prominent from start to finish, but it also bored me, left me slightly uninterested at times, and when it comes to the Robert Eggers library, I prefer “The Lighthouse” by a long shot. For those of you who have not watched “The Lighthouse,” it may not be your cup of tea, but much like “The Northman,” it is a movie that I think you HAVE to see at least once to find out if it really is your cup of tea.
“The Northman” is now playing in theaters and is available to buy or rent through a VOD provider of your choice.
Thanks for reading this review! If you liked this review, I have more coming soon! Be sure to stay tuned for my thoughts on “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness!” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Northman?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite film from Robert Eggers? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!