The Northman

The Northman ★★★½

The Witch Review
The Lighthouse Review

Overall Rating: Above Average (C+)

The Northman is a Robert Eggers popcorn movie. It's an atmospheric, blood spilling, Viking saga, hailing from the vengeful Scandinavian legend of Amleth, the inspiration for Shakespeare's Hamlet. Prior to the film's release, there were concerns regarding studio interference, potentially resulting in a watered down version of Robert Eggers' vision. Such interference is often caused by the larger budget at stake, which results in creative restrictions, since there's a prioritization of appealing to the lowest common denominator. Robert Eggers made some of these concerns invalid by maintaining some of his creative freedom, resulting in an immersive Viking film experience, devoid of cultural misappropriation. The Northman is his most accessible film and as a result, it's a significant step down from The Lighthouse and The Witch. However, it still has the traits of a Robert Eggers film, which makes it a standout experience, especially amongst contemporary, American blockbusters.

One of Eggers' most notable traits, that's present in all his films, is his emphasis and ability at crafting atmosphere. It's through excellent shot composition, blocking, historical accuracies, and an adrenaline, thumping score, that creates complete immersion. Unlike his previous films, The Northman has a heavy focus on action sequences and contains a more simple, linear narrative structure. However, these macho filled action sequences never feel entirely dull, as the cinematography is stunning, a characteristic often missing in contemporary, action scenes. The linear structure and familiarity of the narrative allows for Eggers to explore the mythology and culture in his usual esoteric fashion, but on an epic scale. In terms of faults, the film's most glaring weakness, apart from it's awful use of CGI in certain spots, is it's dialogue. Eggers' is a historian and linguist, which he has displayed in his previous films. The predominant use of Old English over Old Norse in this film is disappointing and is probably a compromise made in fear of alienating casual, American audiences. Most people who don't like Robert Eggers' films are those that hold content in high regard, such as characters and plot, while viewing form, such as cinematography, costume design, atmosphere and mood as less important. When people can't connect to a film's story or characters, they label it as inadequate, which is quite absurd, as it disregards all the intrinsic qualities that separate filmmaking from the other arts. Robert Eggers set out to make the definitive Viking film experience with The Northman and to an extent, he succeeded on a mainstream scale, all while maintaining the filmmaking qualities that have cemented him as one of the best, contemporary, American directors.

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