Robert Eggers is an indie storyteller venturing into the mainstream. His previous two creations, the gothic slow burner ‘The Witch’ (2015) and weirdly funny ‘The Lighthouse’ (2019) both became under the radar cult classics. Now, with his major studio debut ‘The Northman’ the 38-year-old Director was banking on taking his dark vision to the masses.
Unfortunately it’s a big scale vision with a rumored $80 million budget that’s unlikely to break even. Its box office floundering at $50 million worldwide 3 weeks in, which is a shame, considering outside of the comic book movie wars studios will be less likely to green light original stories if they don’t make money.
‘The Northman’ is a revenge movie draped in Conan muscles and black magic Viking rituals. The boy ‘Prince Amleth’, a gym obsessed Alexander Skarsgard witnesses the execution of his father, ‘King Aurvandill’ (Ethan Hawke), this sets on fire his revenge gene into adult life to kill his fathers’ slayer.
It’s a soulless raiding Viking life through villages in the ‘Land of Rus’ in 900 AD, until an encounter with a ‘seeress’ played by Bjork the pop singer reminds him of his true path.
The story moves to Iceland which is under threat from a lava spewing volcano where he meets a slave named ‘Olga’ played by an under utilised Anya Taylor-Joy.
Nicole Kidman plays ‘Queen Gudrun’, which I’m still undecided on, is it her best performance in years or just a distraction?
Eggers likes to keep his source material as historical as possible and if he had his way this whole movie would be spoken in the ‘old norse’ and ‘old east slavic’ tongue, but you will see Viking rituals that you’ve never seen on any TV show.
Which explains why this is not a film for everyone, the macabre and old world tales are really getting into the weeds on popcorn munching moviegoers, but I found the imagery in these scenes pretty cool although I am a little unhinged.
You could almost guarantee Eggers next movie will be an indie, free from studio interference. It’s a lesson learned that young Directors have to suffer, see David Fincher’s dramas in dealing with executives through ‘Alien 3’. We were lucky Fincher wasn’t lost to movie making completely, as he went on to give us a masterpiece in ‘Seven’.
‘The Northman’ is an action blockbuster struggling to break free of it’s own identity, ruled by two masters weighted down by the corporate bottom line.
But it could still be looked back on in a few years as a classic ‘rewatchable’ given the gift of time. Either way, I can’ help but wonder what Eggers true vision would have looked like.
hallymustang rating : 3.5/5 🎥🎥🎥🍿