The Northman

The Northman ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

“I will avenge you father. I will save you mother. I will kill you Fjolnir.”

(For those wondering, I had watched this when it came out. Probably saw this film a little after its release date. I had actually seen it in theaters but between what I wanted to watch last year and my ongoing battle with depression I really didn’t know how to input this film into last year. There's other films I saw in theaters last year that I have reviews written for. I’m going to make it a goal to at least incorporate those films into this year. Despite having been sitting on this review for close to a year, I did give this film a rewatch before posting this review. The film still slaps. Figured I’d mention this little bit, otherwise people will think I went back in time to see this in the theaters or found a way to rent a theater out to watch this film and have the theater experience. For any film I saw in theaters last year, I’ll add a paragraph in the beginning of the review of that film. After watching this again and reading this review over, I didn’t really feel like much needed revision or things needed to be added and or taken away. Didn’t feel like it needed to be longer or that it needed to be shorter, so I decided to just leave it be. Hope you enjoy the review.)

I would just like to preface this review by saying that films that explore the world of the vikings deeply intrigues me. I’ve never done one of those popular DNA tests to see my heritage, but I’ve always found that I have a strong fascination with viking and or celtic music. I’m not implying that I’m related to vikings, but I can’t help but feel connected to them in some way. Not just with the music, but with the culture of vikings as well. Like, whenever some kind of ritual ceremony begins my leg starts bouncing in key with the drums. Like I already know what to do without knowing anything. It's a surreal yet uncomfortable feeling. Because while I feel comfortable chanting with vikings before they go on a murderous voyage, I still fail to grasp why I have such a strong fascination with this stuff. I believe I've read about something about this somewhere but can't recall if I actually did or not. Anyways, I just wanted to get off my chest. It's something I've felt connected to all my life. Started with Irish Celtic music and it just developed into viking era culture and anything else that could be compared to it. Now that I got the viking jitters out of my system, I think it's time we get to the review because that's what you came here for.

Before I lay into this review, I'd just like to quickly touch on the visuals. From the very beginning, we're introduced to a range of dark greys and some shade of black. If I was a betting man I'd say there was some shade of blue mixed in there but the actual colors in this case doesn't necessarily matter. It's the atmosphere, and the aesthetic that those colors create, that does in fact matter. The color palette this film uses gives off a gloomy, filthy look. Of course I mean both of those in a good way. It's important to understand how Iceland being portrayed as this gloomy wasteland advocates for the story. It's almost like the darkening colors play a part in making the film succeed. I wonder how well this film would've done, if this film used a different color palette to accommodate the actors and their costumes. I honestly think the color palette makes the movie what it is. It's just one part but one could argue that a color palette is an important thing to a film's success. I actually admire the fact that we really never get a clear screen. Meaning, that for the entire duration of the film, we're always being greeted by some level of gloom. While I see some of the shots being too gloomy for some people, this shit was right up my alley.

Now I wasn't prepared for the twist that eventually comes to be, but when it does happen, it truly adds something more to this film. The secret that Amleth's mother reveals to him is something that changes the course of the film. Some of you might be wondering, why wouldn't it change the course of the film? The mother admitted to requesting Amleth's uncle to kill his father, which would without a doubt put a stop to Amleth's plans for a short while. But that is exactly what happens. He repeats that he'll avenge his father, save his mother, and kill his uncle. But, Amleth's mother proves to be just as evil as his uncle, which probably (most definitely) changed the way he looked at her. I mean for fucks sake; his mother literally tells him, "If you kill your uncle, I will be your queen." Granted these were different times but Jesus Christ was that a moment to experience while in the theater. To be completely honest, Amleth's mother's secret is my only real issue with this film. Her being forced into marriage because she bore a child sounds believable; especially in these times. There's still people in this generation that stay with someone for the child's sake. Maybe not by force but by choice. Although, I'm not rolling out force because I am aware that there's a lot of sick people out there. I mean in a way the mother turning out to be a sinister woman actually added another layer of darkness to the overall downfall of the story. Though I would’ve preferred they go in a different direction, I can understand why they decided to go in the direction they went in.

I’d like to take this time to express how much I appreciate the fact the vikings referred to an erupted volcano as the gates of hel. It’s bothering me not to type “hell”, but that’s how it was spelled by the movie; hence why I’m spelling it like I am. Anyways, I feel like that’s what vikings would have done anyways. They seem like the type of people who would call a volcano, “The Gates Of Hel.” I just realized that I could have easily misread the screen in the theater, and saw “hel” instead of “hell”, but I don’t believe I’m wrong in this scenario; although if I am, please correct me. I’m not sure if the vikings believed in any god or gods. The reason I say that is because for one they call a volcano the gates of hel. Now one could say that they acknowledge that they have a portal to hell, but it’s almost ungodlike for them to have access to it. Now it could just be a volcano and the vikings just call the volcano the gates of hell just because it’s full of lava, and hell is depicted as being a lake of fire. Another reason why I doubt they believe or praise any gods is how men are often praised and served. Back in those times, it almost felt like men were kings and women were queens. Although, while both seemed to have some form of royalty, the men always seemed to act as if they were gods. Amleth didn’t seem to control Olga or ever act like she was below him. And I guess in a way he was truly different than both of his parents. He wasn’t like his father, and at the end of the day he was nothing like his mother. Truly an orphan in the right light. The second his father was beheaded in his line of view, is the exact moment in time where his family would unknowingly die.

Overall this film does a phenomenal job at having the color palette and the direction of the story really compliment the film's overall success. For a film about vikings, it’s easy for films like this one to lose people very quickly. I think it’s extremely important for these films to be paced well, as well as dealing with some kind of experimentation. And I fully believe this film does both of those things extremely well. While I can’t say I’ve seen many films that deal with vikings, I can say I’ve experienced films that expressed the same brutal stigma that this film puts out. I left the theater telling the friend I saw it with, “It’s almost like the film was about if John Wick was a viking. And instead of his dog being killed, it was his father.” And that’s honestly my take on how brutal this film is. I mean Amleth killed random people and cut them up into pieces. He then arranged their limbs to resemble a horse. So there was actually human/horse art in a viking movie. It was actually a very intriguing sight if I’m being completely honest. Fuck it, I’d buy some human/horse heart. I guess I’d have to wait till a mother begs her husband’s brother to kill him, that would eventually enrage her son to exact revenge upon his father’s killer. And me wanting my own human/horse art might go to show how fucked I am in the head, but so beat it. I’ve never really seen anything like that in any kind of movie, so it really threw me by surprise. I will say, the sword through the fucking nose, was full of cringe. Although, if I had my nose fucked up like that dude’s nose has been fucked up, I would’ve probably asked the dude to just shove the sword through my nose. I mean, imagine living life with a nose that looks both flattened and deflated, IN VIKING TIMES? Nope; I’d jump in the volcano myself.

Of course not everyone who sees this is going to be a big fan of the gore, violence, and maybe the themes that this film explores. But I mean, even if you watch this and like none of the things I mentioned, I don’t think that’s worthy enough to trash this film. The story flowed smoothly. I had a personal issue with the reveal of the mother’s secret, but just because I would’ve gone in a different direction I don’t believe that is a worthy enough reason to bash the film by saying it’s bad. Granted, everyone has their own opinion. But from the looks of the ratings, people definitely had a good time with this one. I hope they never do a sequel to this, because I feel like for one it doesn’t need a sequel, and if they did a sequel; what would the sequel even entail? But with how cinema has been in the last decade or so, remakes and reboots are always around the corner. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t watch a sequel if one is made, I’m just saying I believe that this film can stand on its own without having a sequel. I will say this though. If they do make a sequel, they better not fuck up what they have with this film. Sometimes sequels can be the very thing that embarks a franchise. Sometimes the first film is so good that doing a sequel would be a disservice to the original. And when it comes to The Northman, I feel like it would be a disservice if this film got a sequel. Before I go, you think Amleth’s mother will win mother of the year? That question came out of sarcasm but at the same time, this film was about a story that takes place in ancient viking times, where it was apparently perfectly okay for your mother to be your queen. So I guess I just answered the question. Even in viking times, people can be some wicked fucking people.

Today’s Schedule:
The Fabelmans
The Northman
The Man From Toronto
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

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