Film Review: The Northman

 

While not dispositive as to a movie’s quality, when talking about historical dramas it’s interesting to ask whether the film’s subjects would appreciate their on-screen portrayal. Rather than being a movie vikings would enjoy, The Northman is better described as a movie vikings would make. It is not a straight telling of the lives of northern Europeans during the Viking Age, but a tale molded by their aspirations, their ideals, and untouched by modern mores. In an early scene, our hero Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) raids a Slav village after which the surviving women and children are rounded up to be made slaves or hoarded into a shack and burned alive. This is not a world of universalist Christian morality. It is a world of honor, social rank, and birthright.

At the beginning of the film, young Amleth (Oscar Novak) is twelve, old enough to be initiated as a man and successor to his father King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke). When his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang) kills Aurvandill, Amleth narrowly escapes the same fate and vows revenge. He is taken in by some passing vikings and raised to be a berserker. After the aforementioned raid, he gets wind that Fjölnir has been exiled to Iceland. He brands himself like a slave and boards a slaveship headed to Iceland. On the ship, he meets Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) whose cunning will be of great help in exacting his vengeance.

A he-witch (Ingvar Sigurðsson) instructs him to obtain a magical sword. Amleth’s duel against the animated corpse guarding the sword is one that will go down in cinema history. It is not alone as far as rousing action scenes. With his previous two films, The Witch and The Lighthouse, director Robert Eggers built a reputation for ponderous movies that are near impenetrable for general audiences. The Northman, while an Eggers film to the bone, fares better chances with the moviegoing public. The action is visceral, expertly choreographed, and frequent enough to stave off boredom for more impatient viewers.

These scenes don’t threaten Eggers’ auteur status; they enhance it. Historical combat buffs will be pleased by their brevity. These aren’t bloated, over-choreographed Hollywood action scenes. The laws of physics aren’t completely abandoned. Film snobs such as myself often complain about modern action movies not clearly conveying the actors and their positions relative to each other throughout a fight. Eggers seemingly disregards this, having the camera move so Amleth or his enemies often disappear out of frame. This creates tension as you don’t know when an attack will come from off-screen. This was a deliberate artistic decision, and it took careful planning unlike those terrible scenes that use quick cuts and frantic editing to disguise nonsensical or boring action.

Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) during a berserker raid.

The violence is brutal. There’s dismemberment, mutilation, and disemboweling. The most gruesome images are seen in wide shots, silhouette, or for just long enough to convince you you’ve seen more gore than you actually have. The music is also brutal. Eggers says they only used instruments from the period. We may know what instruments vikings had, but we can only guess what their music sounded like. The music in the movie is driven by percussion, a war march of thundering drums and throat singing. It fits the movie’s martial obsessions and, like the main character, its singular focus is admirable, though no one is going to hum the score leaving the theater.

The Northman returns to the color grading seen in The Witch, i.e. just shy of monochrome. Eggers insists on only using period-accurate light sources, so night scenes are limited to moonlight and faces bathed in orange. Day scenes are dominated by steely blue tones. You have to wonder why bother with color at all. The film would’ve looked gorgeous in black and white like The Lighthouse. At least the cinematography leaves nothing to be desired. DP Jarin Blaschke beautifully captures the natural world that so shaped these people’s lives from the verdant forests to the bleak vastness of the sea. His handling of action scenes is no less competent, with many impressive long takes (astute viewers may be able to spot the hidden edits). One midnight fight scene sees combatants materializing in and out of the light of the bonfires pockmarking a field.

A valkyrie (Ineta Sliuzaite). Excavated skulls show some vikings filed a groove into the front of their teeth.

All the painstaking work put into historical accuracy from the costumes to the rituals would be a waste were the performances not equally convincing. Every cast member, no matter how minor their part, are right at place as these people whose beliefs and experiences are so alien to our own, but who are people nonetheless. Alexander Skarsgård, who got jacked for the role, doesn’t merely look powerful, he moves through the movie like a force of nature. It’s mythic, yet Skarsgård retains that element of humanity that makes Amleth compelling to modern audiences and relatable to the people who created and passed down his legend. Though most of the cast looks like Nocturno Culto, we’re treated to a trio of cinema’s odder faces: Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe, Björk, though Björk has an elaborate headdress with seashells hanging over her eyes so you probably wouldn’t recognize her.

With how meticulously crafted the rest of the film is, it’s unfortunate that when The Northman falters in its final moments. The climactic battle has the set dressing of an epic duel, but the choreography pales to every previous scene. It concludes with lots of screaming, if that’s your thing. This sours but does not ruin the movie. Eggers was given a huge budget ($70 million from most reports), made a movie that looks like it, and retained his directorial voice. It is not as mesmerizing as the spiral into madness that is The Lighthouse, though I prefer it over The Witch (I’m in the minority and did not like that movie and I refuse to use its stylistic spelling). Will word of mouth elevate The Northman to the success of films like Gladiator and Braveheart? I hope so.

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  1. David Pettus Coolidge
    David Pettus
    @DavidPettus

    I thought it was sort of a cross between Conan the Barbarian and Hamlet.  It was a good movie and the performances were (mostly) quite good, but if I ever see Nicole Kidman in another movie it will be too soon.

    • #31
  2. The Girlie Show Member
    The Girlie Show
    @CatIII

    David Pettus (View Comment):

    I thought it was sort of a cross between Conan the Barbarian and Hamlet. It was a good movie and the performances were (mostly) quite good, but if I ever see Nicole Kidman in another movie it will be too soon.

    Interesting. I was shocked by how powerful Kidman’s performance was. I worried she might take me out of the movie, but she was a highlight.

    As far as the Hamlet comparison, it is based on the Norse story that was Shakespeare’s inspiration for Hamlet (just move the H from the end to the beginning of the Amleth’s name). That was another thing I learned while writing the review.

    • #32
  3. Dbroussa Coolidge
    Dbroussa
    @Dbroussa

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Dbroussa (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Dbroussa (View Comment):

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    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Girlie Show (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    This week’s new “episode” of the Sub-Beacon podcast is discussing The Northman.

    I’ve never listened to that podcast. I rarely listen to podcasts.

    Co-hosts include movie reviewer/critic Sonny Bunch.

    I’m aware of what it is; I just haven’t listened to it.

    I listen to Bunch on Fridays when he does reviews for Hugh Hewitt. He isn’t always good with th his reviews, but he often has a unique view of the film which I like.

    I thought “Emmett of the Unblinking Eye” was better, but that’s been a while.

    Yeah, he was, and that’s been a REALLY long time.

    Indeed. And I stopped paying for Hugh’s show some time ago too, because for $5/month (at first – might be more now) all you got was his show, and then the “message boards” stopped working and apparently nobody had any interest in fixing it. I also had little patience for talk of Ohio, and football, and Ohio football, and baseball, and Ohio baseball… Hugh is also one of those past DC people who think their government experiences from 40 years ago still have relevance.

    It’s still $5/mo and it’s worth it to me to not get commercials and to listen and 1.5 speed. Hugh actually sounds animated and exciting at that speed and so did Trump. Then I’d listen to them at normal.cademce and I was like, gosh they talk slowly its so boring. Frankly I’d listen to more if they were at 1.5 speed.

    As for your other point, Hugh does the best interviews. He takes his time and k ows his subject before bringing them on. He isn’t perfect, but listening via my podcast app also allows me to skip the built in ads as well as things I don’t care about. When I was commuting to work (about an hour in the car each day) I found that I could listen to his entire 3 hour show (well the good parts) and usually some of the Aftershow with Duane fairly easily. 

    • #33
  4. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Dbroussa (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

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    kedavis (View Comment):

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    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Girlie Show (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    This week’s new “episode” of the Sub-Beacon podcast is discussing The Northman.

    I’ve never listened to that podcast. I rarely listen to podcasts.

    Co-hosts include movie reviewer/critic Sonny Bunch.

    I’m aware of what it is; I just haven’t listened to it.

    I listen to Bunch on Fridays when he does reviews for Hugh Hewitt. He isn’t always good with th his reviews, but he often has a unique view of the film which I like.

    I thought “Emmett of the Unblinking Eye” was better, but that’s been a while.

    Yeah, he was, and that’s been a REALLY long time.

    Indeed. And I stopped paying for Hugh’s show some time ago too, because for $5/month (at first – might be more now) all you got was his show, and then the “message boards” stopped working and apparently nobody had any interest in fixing it. I also had little patience for talk of Ohio, and football, and Ohio football, and baseball, and Ohio baseball… Hugh is also one of those past DC people who think their government experiences from 40 years ago still have relevance.

    It’s still $5/mo and it’s worth it to me to not get commercials and to listen and 1.5 speed. Hugh actually sounds animated and exciting at that speed and so did Trump. Then I’d listen to them at normal.cademce and I was like, gosh they talk slowly its so boring. Frankly I’d listen to more if they were at 1.5 speed.

    As for your other point, Hugh does the best interviews. He takes his time and k ows his subject before bringing them on. He isn’t perfect, but listening via my podcast app also allows me to skip the built in ads as well as things I don’t care about. When I was commuting to work (about an hour in the car each day) I found that I could listen to his entire 3 hour show (well the good parts) and usually some of the Aftershow with Duane fairly easily.

    The regular show without commercials is only about 2 hours.

    • #34
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    kedavis (View Comment):

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    kedavis (View Comment):

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    kedavis (View Comment):

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    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Girlie Show (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    This week’s new “episode” of the Sub-Beacon podcast is discussing The Northman.

    I’ve never listened to that podcast. I rarely listen to podcasts.

    Co-hosts include movie reviewer/critic Sonny Bunch.

    I’m aware of what it is; I just haven’t listened to it.

    I listen to Bunch on Fridays when he does reviews for Hugh Hewitt. He isn’t always good with th his reviews, but he often has a unique view of the film which I like.

    I thought “Emmett of the Unblinking Eye” was better, but that’s been a while.

    Yeah, he was, and that’s been a REALLY long time.

    Indeed. And I stopped paying for Hugh’s show some time ago too, because for $5/month (at first – might be more now) all you got was his show, and then the “message boards” stopped working and apparently nobody had any interest in fixing it. I also had little patience for talk of Ohio, and football, and Ohio football, and baseball, and Ohio baseball… Hugh is also one of those past DC people who think their government experiences from 40 years ago still have relevance.

    It’s still $5/mo and it’s worth it to me to not get commercials and to listen and 1.5 speed. Hugh actually sounds animated and exciting at that speed and so did Trump. Then I’d listen to them at normal.cademce and I was like, gosh they talk slowly its so boring. Frankly I’d listen to more if they were at 1.5 speed.

    As for your other point, Hugh does the best interviews. He takes his time and k ows his subject before bringing them on. He isn’t perfect, but listening via my podcast app also allows me to skip the built in ads as well as things I don’t care about. When I was commuting to work (about an hour in the car each day) I found that I could listen to his entire 3 hour show (well the good parts) and usually some of the Aftershow with Duane fairly easily.

    The regular show without commercials is only about 2 hours.

    The show was ill-served by the time shift from evenings to mornings. The change in venue meant even more interviews with politicians. Those varied from Rep. John Campbell (very good) to Mitt Romney (I rolled my eyes so hard I saw my own brain).

    • #35
  6. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Percival (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Dbroussa (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Dbroussa (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Dbroussa (View Comment):

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    kedavis (View Comment):

    Co-hosts include movie reviewer/critic Sonny Bunch.

    I’m aware of what it is; I just haven’t listened to it.

    I listen to Bunch on Fridays when he does reviews for Hugh Hewitt. He isn’t always good with th his reviews, but he often has a unique view of the film which I like.

    I thought “Emmett of the Unblinking Eye” was better, but that’s been a while.

    Yeah, he was, and that’s been a REALLY long time.

    Indeed. And I stopped paying for Hugh’s show some time ago too, because for $5/month (at first – might be more now) all you got was his show, and then the “message boards” stopped working and apparently nobody had any interest in fixing it. I also had little patience for talk of Ohio, and football, and Ohio football, and baseball, and Ohio baseball… Hugh is also one of those past DC people who think their government experiences from 40 years ago still have relevance.

    It’s still $5/mo and it’s worth it to me to not get commercials and to listen and 1.5 speed. Hugh actually sounds animated and exciting at that speed and so did Trump. Then I’d listen to them at normal.cademce and I was like, gosh they talk slowly its so boring. Frankly I’d listen to more if they were at 1.5 speed.

    As for your other point, Hugh does the best interviews. He takes his time and k ows his subject before bringing them on. He isn’t perfect, but listening via my podcast app also allows me to skip the built in ads as well as things I don’t care about. When I was commuting to work (about an hour in the car each day) I found that I could listen to his entire 3 hour show (well the good parts) and usually some of the Aftershow with Duane fairly easily.

    The regular show without commercials is only about 2 hours.

    The show was ill-served by the time shift from evenings to mornings. The change in venue meant even more interviews with politicians. Those varied from Rep. John Campbell (very good) to Mitt Romney (I rolled my eyes so hard I saw my own brain).

    The time/venue change was a big problem, and made it clear that Hugh really wanted to be more into politics than he should have been.  (It also cost them regular “appearances” by @jameslileks which was definitely too high a price.)  The odd thing was that they boasted about how smart it was because their audience went way up, while they also said that it consisted mostly of drunks from the previous night.

    But the last straw was making such a big deal about the non-functional Hughniverse.

    • #36
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

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    kedavis (View Comment):

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    kedavis (View Comment):

    Dbroussa (View Comment):

    The Girlie Show (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Co-hosts include movie reviewer/critic Sonny Bunch.

    I’m aware of what it is; I just haven’t listened to it.

    I listen to Bunch on Fridays when he does reviews for Hugh Hewitt. He isn’t always good with th his reviews, but he often has a unique view of the film which I like.

    I thought “Emmett of the Unblinking Eye” was better, but that’s been a while.

    Yeah, he was, and that’s been a REALLY long time.

    Indeed. And I stopped paying for Hugh’s show some time ago too, because for $5/month (at first – might be more now) all you got was his show, and then the “message boards” stopped working and apparently nobody had any interest in fixing it. I also had little patience for talk of Ohio, and football, and Ohio football, and baseball, and Ohio baseball… Hugh is also one of those past DC people who think their government experiences from 40 years ago still have relevance.

    It’s still $5/mo and it’s worth it to me to not get commercials and to listen and 1.5 speed. Hugh actually sounds animated and exciting at that speed and so did Trump. Then I’d listen to them at normal.cademce and I was like, gosh they talk slowly its so boring. Frankly I’d listen to more if they were at 1.5 speed.

    As for your other point, Hugh does the best interviews. He takes his time and k ows his subject before bringing them on. He isn’t perfect, but listening via my podcast app also allows me to skip the built in ads as well as things I don’t care about. When I was commuting to work (about an hour in the car each day) I found that I could listen to his entire 3 hour show (well the good parts) and usually some of the Aftershow with Duane fairly easily.

    The regular show without commercials is only about 2 hours.

    The show was ill-served by the time shift from evenings to mornings. The change in venue meant even more interviews with politicians. Those varied from Rep. John Campbell (very good) to Mitt Romney (I rolled my eyes so hard I saw my own brain).

    The time/venue change was a big problem, and made it clear that Hugh really wanted to be more into politics than he should have been. (It also cost them regular “appearances” by @ jameslileks which was definitely too high a price.) The odd thing was that they boasted about how smart it was because their audience went way up, while they also said that it consisted mostly of drunks from the previous night.

    But the last straw was making such a big deal about the non-functional Hughniverse.

    I loved the book interviews. I miss Christopher Hitchens. The Lileks segments were always a hoot. I wish that I still had a record of the time James answered an innocuous question about the weather in Minnesota in the persona of a previous guest (I think it was Andrew Sullivan). Emmet of the Unblinking Eye and Tarzana Joe were also highlights. There was one of Joe’s poems that I wish I had a copy of.

    “Fight on” said Custer
    “Those arrows won’t hurt much”
    “Fight on” said James the Second
    “C’mon, it’s just the Dutch”

    That’s all I remember.

    • #37
  8. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Percival (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Dbroussa (View Comment):

    It’s still $5/mo and it’s worth it to me to not get commercials and to listen and 1.5 speed. Hugh actually sounds animated and exciting at that speed and so did Trump. Then I’d listen to them at normal.cademce and I was like, gosh they talk slowly its so boring. Frankly I’d listen to more if they were at 1.5 speed.

    As for your other point, Hugh does the best interviews. He takes his time and k ows his subject before bringing them on. He isn’t perfect, but listening via my podcast app also allows me to skip the built in ads as well as things I don’t care about. When I was commuting to work (about an hour in the car each day) I found that I could listen to his entire 3 hour show (well the good parts) and usually some of the Aftershow with Duane fairly easily.

    The regular show without commercials is only about 2 hours.

    The show was ill-served by the time shift from evenings to mornings. The change in venue meant even more interviews with politicians. Those varied from Rep. John Campbell (very good) to Mitt Romney (I rolled my eyes so hard I saw my own brain).

    The time/venue change was a big problem, and made it clear that Hugh really wanted to be more into politics than he should have been. (It also cost them regular “appearances” by @ jameslileks which was definitely too high a price.) The odd thing was that they boasted about how smart it was because their audience went way up, while they also said that it consisted mostly of drunks from the previous night.

    But the last straw was making such a big deal about the non-functional Hughniverse.

    I loved the book interviews. I miss Christopher Hitchens. The Lileks segments were always a hoot. I wish that I still had a record of the time James answered an innocuous question about the weather in Minnesota in the persona of a previous guest (I think it was Andrew Sullivan). Emmet of the Unblinking Eye and Tarzana Joe were also highlights. There was one of Joe’s poems that I wish I had a copy of.

    “Fight on” said Custer
    “Those arrows won’t hurt much”
    “Fight on” said James the Second
    “C’mon, it’s just the Dutch”

    That’s all I remember.

    I still have all the podcasts saved from when I was a member.  I can probably find that Lileks bit.

    And tarzanajoe.com still exists.

    • #38
  9. Dbroussa Coolidge
    Dbroussa
    @Dbroussa

    Percival (View Comment):

    .

    I loved the book interviews. I miss Christopher Hitchens. The Lileks segments were always a hoot. I wish that I still had a record of the time James answered an innocuous question about the weather in Minnesota in the persona of a previous guest (I think it was Andrew Sullivan). Emmet of the Unblinking Eye and Tarzana Joe were also highlights. There was one of Joe’s poems that I wish I had a copy of.

    “Fight on” said Custer
    “Those arrows won’t hurt much”
    “Fight on” said James the Second
    “C’mon, it’s just the Dutch”

    That’s all I remember.

    Tarzana Joe is still a regular guest. 

    I’ve been happy with the time shift because I listen via podcast and the news is more current in the morning. The onky bad part is that the last hour is the critical one as opposed to the first as it used to be. 

    I’ve missed Eastman and Chemerensky (SP?) but Salena Zito has been a good addition. I get my Lileks fix on the Aftershow and the Ricochet podcast. 

    • #39
  10. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Dbroussa (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    .

    I loved the book interviews. I miss Christopher Hitchens. The Lileks segments were always a hoot. I wish that I still had a record of the time James answered an innocuous question about the weather in Minnesota in the persona of a previous guest (I think it was Andrew Sullivan). Emmet of the Unblinking Eye and Tarzana Joe were also highlights. There was one of Joe’s poems that I wish I had a copy of.

    “Fight on” said Custer
    “Those arrows won’t hurt much”
    “Fight on” said James the Second
    “C’mon, it’s just the Dutch”

    That’s all I remember.

    Tarzana Joe is still a regular guest.

    I’ve been happy with the time shift because I listen via podcast and the news is more current in the morning. The onky bad part is that the last hour is the critical one as opposed to the first as it used to be.

    I’ve missed Eastman and Chemerensky (SP?) but Salena Zito has been a good addition. I get my Lileks fix on the Aftershow and the Ricochet podcast.

    Lileks on the Aftershow was good, the downside was hearing so much of Duane.

    • #40
  11. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    The Girlie Show (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):

    I stumbled upon another “realistic” retelling of Hamlet in streaming. It’s a low budget film starring a teenage Christian Bale and an even younger Kate Beckinsale. Happily they got some grownup actresses for the obligatory naked sauna sequence.

    Prince of Jutland, aka Royal Deceit. I happened upon that when writing my review. Was it good?

    No.

    • #41
  12. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):

    The Girlie Show (View Comment):

    Dbroussa (View Comment):

    My wife and I have plans to see this movie, and then you mentioned The Lighthouse (one of the worst movies I’ve seen over the past few years). We will still see it I suspect, but I’m less sanguine about liking it now.

    Don’t worry. While I wouldn’t classify The Northman as conventional, it’s far more conventional than The Lighthouse. And there’s at least some cool sword fights if the rest of the movie doesn’t speak to you.

    The Lighthouse represents one of the very few times I asked for, and got, my money back from a theater.

    I stumbled upon another “realistic” retelling of Hamlet in streaming. It’s a low budget film starring a teenage Christian Bale and an even younger Kate Beckinsale. Happily they got some grownup actresses for the obligatory naked sauna sequence.

    Teenage? Kate would have been 21 for that movie, and Christian Bale was 20.

    That said, my favorite Kate Beckinsale movie is “Nothing But The Truth,” talk about a gut-punch at the end!

    She looks 15 in Prince of Jutland.

    I’m particularly fond of Whiteout (2009), in which Kate plays the only law south of the Antarctic Ocean.

    She has an amazing range, from vampire warriors in black leather to Jane Austen heroines.

    • #42
  13. The Girlie Show Member
    The Girlie Show
    @CatIII

    Taras (View Comment):

    The Girlie Show (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):

    I stumbled upon another “realistic” retelling of Hamlet in streaming. It’s a low budget film starring a teenage Christian Bale and an even younger Kate Beckinsale. Happily they got some grownup actresses for the obligatory naked sauna sequence.

    Prince of Jutland, aka Royal Deceit. I happened upon that when writing my review. Was it good?

    No.

    Oh well. That’s one less movie to see.

    • #43
  14. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    David Pettus (View Comment):

    I thought it was sort of a cross between Conan the Barbarian and Hamlet. It was a good movie and the performances were (mostly) quite good, but if I ever see Nicole Kidman in another movie it will be too soon.

    Yes, I was surprised that the movie turned out to be more a retelling of Conan the Barbarian (1982), than of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  There are several scenes that are direct quotes from the Schwarzenegger antediluvian classic; for example, how the hero steals a sword from the hands of a seated, mummified king in an ancient tumulus.

    Of course, exactly what a mummified king in an ancient tumulus is doing in early tenth century Iceland we are perhaps better off not asking!

    Conan, with screenplay by John Milius and Oliver Stone, was better written on the whole.  The parallel sequences in the two films in which the hero is captured and crucified by his enemies shows this.

    In Conan the Barbarian, the hero is captured while trying to sneak into the enemy stronghold in disguise.  In The Northman, the hero is captured when he unaccountably launches a single-handed attack on his evil uncle’s entire force of warriors.

    I suspect this rather slapdash scene was added to the latter film to give Anya Taylor-Joy more to do; i.e., rescue the hero.  Amusingly, the film glosses over how such a slender lass was able to transport the unconscious body of so beefy a hero!

    Another rather implausible scene, in which Nicole Kidman’s character blurts out to her long-lost son that she hated his father, her husband and instigated his murder, may similarly have been added to give Kidman a chance to chew the scenery.  (She’s had so much plastic surgery that I’m a little uneasy looking at her.)

    One minor oddity is that the Norsemen refer to their Rus (Ukrainian or Russian) slaves as “Christians” (though Anya Taylor-Joy’s character seems to be a pagan).  The movie is set about 80 or 90 years before the Kievan Rus converted to Christianity.

    • #44
  15. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Taras (View Comment):

    David Pettus (View Comment):

    I thought it was sort of a cross between Conan the Barbarian and Hamlet. It was a good movie and the performances were (mostly) quite good, but if I ever see Nicole Kidman in another movie it will be too soon.

    Yes, I was surprised that the movie turned out to be more a retelling of Conan the Barbarian (1982), than of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. There are several scenes that are direct quotes from the Schwarzenegger antediluvian classic; for example, how the hero steals a sword from the hands of a seated, mummified king in an ancient tumulus.

    Of course, exactly what a mummified king in an ancient tumulus is doing in early tenth century Iceland we are perhaps better off not asking!

    Conan, with screenplay by John Milius and Oliver Stone, was better written on the whole. The parallel sequences in the two films in which the hero is captured and crucified by his enemies shows this.

    In Conan the Barbarian, the hero is captured while trying to sneak into the enemy stronghold in disguise. In The Northman, the hero is captured when he unaccountably launches a single-handed attack on his evil uncle’s entire force of warriors.

    I suspect this rather slapdash scene was added to the latter film to give Anya Taylor-Joy more to do; i.e., rescue the hero. Amusingly, the film glosses over how such a slender lass was able to transport the unconscious body of so beefy a hero!

    Another rather implausible scene, in which Nicole Kidman’s character blurts out to her long-lost son that she hated his father, her husband and instigated his murder, may similarly have been added to give Kidman a chance to chew the scenery. (She’s had so much plastic surgery that I’m a little uneasy looking at her.)

    One minor oddity is that the Norsemen refer to their Rus (Ukrainian or Russian) slaves as “Christians” (though Anya Taylor-Joy’s character seems to be a pagan). The movie is set about 80 or 90 years before the Kievan Rus converted to Christianity.

    If you haven’t already, you should see “Your Highness” from 2011, starring Natalie Portman among others.  Great fun!

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  16. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    The Girlie Show (View Comment):

    David Pettus (View Comment):

    I thought it was sort of a cross between Conan the Barbarian and Hamlet. It was a good movie and the performances were (mostly) quite good, but if I ever see Nicole Kidman in another movie it will be too soon.

    Interesting. I was shocked by how powerful Kidman’s performance was. I worried she might take me out of the movie, but she was a highlight.

    As far as the Hamlet comparison, it is based on the Norse story that was Shakespeare’s inspiration for Hamlet (just move the H from the end to the beginning of the Amleth’s name). That was another thing I learned while writing the review.

    Actually that appears to be untrue.  The crucial element in all the early “Hamlet” narratives is the Prince feigning madness to appear harmless to the usurper.  Nothing like that occurs in The Northman, of course.

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