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The Northman (Amazon Prime)

The Northman

Robert Eggers' hotly anticipated third feature film is finally here and we've rated it.

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After the two absolutely excellent films The Witch and The Lighthouse, it's time for Robert Eggers' third and long-awaited feature film to make its debut. Violence, blood and darkness are the order of the day as the celebrated director takes us on an ancient Norse journey, following in the footsteps of Prince Amleth and his quest for revenge. Written in collaboration with Icelandic-born poet Sjon, The Northman presents itself as an epic Viking drama inspired by Beowulf as well as Hamlet and backed by a monstrous budget.

As with Robert Eggers' previous films, we're thrust into a long-gone era with a touch of the supernatural thrown in for good measure. We are introduced to Prince Amleth, a little Viking boy who welcomes his father King Aurvandill back from raiding parties. We quickly learn that all is not well with the aged Viking king, however, who is suffering in the aftermath of wounds he sustained in battle. A very precarious situation that is exploited by the king's brother Fjölnir who kills Aurvandill and takes power for himself. Prince Amleth is forced to flee, but vows to return one day and exact his revenge.

The Northman (Amazon Prime)
Alexander Skarsgård shows off his toned muscles.

Several years pass and Amleth is now a grown man, a bloodthirsty man who lives only to fight. But fate catches up with Amleth and a chance encounter with a mystic reminds the warrior of his sworn plan for revenge and sets him on a collision course with his uncle Fjölnir, his father's killer. What follows is a nearly two-hour story that bears all of Robert Eggers' hallmarks. But despite occasionally delivering on stunning photography, consistently brilliant acting and a rich, enchanting soundtrack that really lends itself well to the story. There's no ignoring the problems that prevent The Northman from really taking off.

Perhaps most noticeable are the pacing constraints the script is dragged into and after a rousing and strong first act, the journey to the climax and also the ultimate showdown between Amleth and Fjölnir feels at times both clumsy, sprawling and even a little heavy-handed. For all of Robert Eggers' brilliance, it lacks some of the immersive mood he offered in The Witch and The Lighthouse, films with an atmosphere so rich that you could even taste it. In The Northman, I often get the feeling that Robert Eggers has had to compromise his vision in order to appeal to a wider audience.

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The Northman (Amazon Prime)
The Northman at its best.

It's pure speculation, of course, but I wouldn't be surprised if the cultural differences at Focus Features and Universal compared to A24 played a part in the creative process. The intimacy and surrealism that has previously characterised Robert Eggers' films has fallen a little flat in The Northman. In its place, a more traditional narrative has been formed, which is perhaps most evident in the underdeveloped and somewhat hilarious romance that develops between Amleth and Anya Taylor-Joy's character Olga of the Birch Forest. A character that Robert Eggers never really seems to know what to do with and who, more than anything, feels mostly like eye candy.

No, I had expected more from Robert Eggers' third project. Because despite consistently brilliant performances from the actors and beautiful set design where the film's budget really makes its presence felt, The Northman just isn't weird enough. At no point during the film's running time did I find myself as enchanted or entranced as Robert Eggers' previous stories have been capable of doing. The Northman feels far too contrived for its own good seemingly never daring to walk the tightrope but instead leaning a little too much on already tried and true, traditional storytelling and structure, which is nothing short of pure tragedy.

The Northman (Amazon Prime)
Anya Taylor-Joy is reduced to a flat love interest.
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The film's shortcomings are more evident in the choice of language, with all characters speaking uncomfortable English enriched by peculiar Nordic accents instead of the tongue language of the time. It honestly doesn't make much sense and lends itself badly to the tone and seriousness The Northman is so obviously trying to strive for and achieve otherwise. It's just hard to take the grunting sailors seriously when they're bellowing "towards Valhall" in grammatically correct English. More than anything, Robert Eggers' latest feels like wasted potential and a story content to entertain but never challenge. A visually striking and well-constructed but incomplete experience that leaves much to be desired.

07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
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The Northman

The Northman

MOVIE REVIEW. Written by Marcus Persson

Robert Eggers' hotly anticipated third feature film is finally here and we've rated it.



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