"The Northman" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
"The Northman," Robert Egger's third major film, carries the same tone and weight as his previous two films. Like "The Witch" and "The Lighthouse", the film opens with haunting imagery, warning the viewer for what is to come in the next two hours. While being his most expensive film by almost $80 million more than his second film, it almost seems like he is biting off more than he can chew, delivering a mediocre film that fumbles and falls in certain moments, but redeems itself in some of the fantastic fight sequences and great plot twists.
The film could possibly be described as an adult-only version of Disney's "The Lion King", following a young man (Alexander Scarsgård) on the path to vengeance by plotting his plan to kill the man who had killed his father very early in the film. However, instead of singing lions and a joke-cracking warthog, the viewer gets gruesome murders, numerous displays of sex acts, and one man's quest to avenge his father.
Alongside Skarsgård, the film contains performances by Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Björk, Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke, and many more. Many of the actors, especially the A-listers, give fantastic, haunting performances, which sometimes left the viewer truly disturbed or haunted by the characters throughout the film's runtime. In judging this film, there is no doubt at all that the acting performances were spectacular and sold the viewer on the plot and characters.
However, Eggers loses his focus in the plot of the movie. It seems like he's not sure where he wants to head next, and it's hard not to scratch your head and wonder what bonkers event will happen next. The film definitely runs for way too long, and is filled with some scenes that have no purpose or necessity to be included. They seem as if he is trying to reign in the plot, while also going for the shock value and setting the dark and depressing tone of the events taking place.
When he does get back on path in terms of the plot, he tells a fascinating story about revenge, combined with beautiful cinematography and great fight sequences. But, by the time the audience gets there in the film, they are already worn out by the numerous scenes that could have been cut from the final product. It's a pity as he has some great ideas and great sequences in the film, but the destination is unfortunately ruined by the journey to get there.
At the same time, the movie seems predictable towards the end, and borrows a whole bunch from previous films. It loses its originality by basically telling the plot of "The Lion King", while using scenes and sequences made famous by films such as "Gladiator" and "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith". It feels like a movie that we have seen before, but updated with new visual effects and Egger's distinct style on the film as a whole.
If you can consider this film works more on the basis of how it makes you feel, then this film excels at the creepiness and disturbing factor. From the cinematography (like mentioned above) to the haunting score, the viewer can feel themselves shifting uncomfortably in their seats, not sure how much longer they can take the disturbing material. Depending on how you look at it, this can either excite the viewer, or scare them off of this film for good.
It's interesting that this is perhaps considered Egger's most accessible films, being released by a major production studio rather than the excellent smaller studio, A24. However, when viewing this film, it contains the same elements and factors as his previous films, but unfortunately does not contain the greatness that Eggers has displayed throughout his previous works. When looking at this film at a whole, it can be very disappointing for some who was expecting a much more action-packed and gritty film. But if you look at this film as rather a sum of great sequences sprinkled throughout a film that contains many mundane parts, you may learn to appreciate it and love it over it as a whole.