The Northman

The Northman ★★★½

I have to preface this by saying I’m a HUGE fan of Eggers. The movie’s premise and tone gave me a lot to look forward to. And while it delivered on several fronts, there were also some big misses. 

As with The Witch and The Lighthouse, the production design of The Northman was striking and historically representative. The props, costumes, sets, landscape were absolutely spectacular. Many of the performances were incredible: Bjork is a revelation, Ethan Hawke and Nicole Kidman are wonderful! While others were surprisingly flat (Ana Taylor-Joy and, at times, Skarsgard).  One aspect that I love is how closely this directly tried to stay to the language used in the time and place that’s being depicted!

Ultimately, though, the movie was a bit of a slog beginning somewhere around the end of the first Act. While I like a good, slow burn, and technically the Amleth character does develop as a character along the traditional arch… the stakes are raised, his consciousness is raised to the fact that his past and his family are not what he once believed them to be, he is challenged emotionally and physically to rise above and perservere… it doesn’t really feel that way.

Why? Because I never emotionally connected with him?  Because the story itself didn’t feel particularly engaging? Perhaps. What it feels like to me is the production company pushed to water down the story and give it mass appeal. It feels like they tried to (MARVELIZE??) the movie, stripping some creativity authority from the artists. It’s a shame.

I won’t go so far as to say the movie is a disappointment. Some aspects of it are. BUT, as is the case with Eggers other films, I suspect this movie will reward multiple viewings. I look forward to watching it again and finding out if it grows in my estimation (or if the opposite occurs).

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