The Northman

The Northman ★★½

Sluggishly unimpressive and unimpactful combat sequences littered with PS2-era cutscene CGI gore that soaks the screen of this empty swooping digital land of howling phony machismo in this Norse Conan remake. Irrelevant vengeance for people we don’t value propels the lackluster, non-epic screaming match between uncool muscular men with more in common with protruding hipbone Calvin Cline Brad Pitt models than legitimately intimidating or badass tough guys. The stars sparkle with pixels in fake nighttime skies as torches struggle to be cropped against them. Reportedly cut by the studio but with Eggers’ approval, the trajectory of the story feels more like a sports highlight package than a fully realized narrative, cutting more briskly through sequences and chapters and events than Amleth’s blood-hounding blade. The music’s generic tribal beats pale in comparison to the epic and emotional nature of Basil Poledouris’ score that whisks us through the fully palpable and lived-in land of the Hyborian Age. This feels like people acting in rags and sticks and comfortably allowing a computer to fill in the blanks of believability.

With black animated blood dissolving in midair and fully computerized “epic” depictions of blue-lit trees of prophecy and fallen kings, or whatever, not to mention all the grunting and screaming in place of memorable dialogue (repetitive cliche remarks of “revenge” being about as empowering and primitively exciting as the “evil dies tonight” chants of Halloween Kills), this succeeds at little more than being a 300 successor but lacking self-awareness and mistaking itself for gritty groundedness.

Anya-Taylor Joy, some calmer moments (I prayed for less combat or action due to its eye-soring lack of physicality), some static symmetrical centered photography, and the ritualistic posing of practical corpses are the few saving graces of this movie, and the only reminder that there’s an original filmmaker behind the camera here. If this is telling of anything to me, though, it’s that Robert Eggers will be working on a Marvel movie within the next three years.

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