Movie Badger’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Northman – 8.5/10
When you come out of the blocks with The Witch and The Lighthouse as your first two features, you set a very high bar. With a bigger budget, studio execs breathing down his neck and a story with a much vaster scope than he is been used to, I am very happy to report that Eggers sailed over the bar with ease.
Even though it has a long running time, there are a lot of aspects of the story that are entirely glossed over. The plot is very similar to Hamlet/The Lion King with a healthy dose of Gladiator thrown in for good measure. It feels like Eggers trusted the audiences familiarity with the story structure which allowed him to keep things moving. We don’t get much of a build up to the first ‘betrayal’. We don’t get any montages that mark a passing of time. Instead, we just get thrown headfirst into the action without a hint of a breather to fill in the blanks, and it’s all the better for it.
The Witch and The Lighthouse both climax with full psychological chaos but The Northman doesn’t quite reach those levels. There’s something about the finale that feels slightly lacking but there’s so many positives that come before so I didn’t mind too much. I get the feeling that a pure Eggers version would have maintained the fever dream energy right up the finale but the studio execs wanted something a bit tamer/audience friendly.
There’s one scene between Skarsgard and Kidman (a Big Little Lies reunion) that is electric! They certainly bring the best out of each other.