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Review The Northman (2022): Braveheart of this decade? Live action The Lion King? Conan the Barbarian remake? Unfortunately no! (mild spoilers)

genre: action, adventure, drama

The Northman is a blend of many films. It's a little Braveheart, a little The Lion King, apparently quite a lot of Conan the Barbarian covered in a Shakespearean jacket that while having certain fantastic elements also tries to be as historically corrects as possible. If I had read what I just typed and hadn't heard about The Northman yet, I wouldn't waste a single second into watching this film. Because it sounds awesome.

Unfortunately, writer / director Robert Eggers fails to make all these different story elements work. There is no coherency or even substantial plot that makes you accept the events that transpire in this film. There is no character development to speak of. And the supposed spectacle and adventure elements are presented to you like you are watching a stage play. Yes, there is some blood. Yes, there is some gore. And yes, some violence. But none of that truly has an impact. It could have been, but it never does. What is really puzzling is the fact that none of the fights are choreographed well. If you only have a few of them, then you better make sure they count. Maybe one scene came close, but it was over before you knew it. More time was wasted on showing the aftermath of battle. By now, we all have a pretty good idea what horny and hungry Vikings do. And before I get attacked on being shallow and wanting my action fix. I honestly wasn't expecting it. I had counted on a more plot based and substantial tale of betrayal and love. That kind of drama never gets old, and I would have embraced it. But it's not there. Or at least not of a level that is acceptable.

And as much as I like Alexander Skarsgård and his remarkable transformation into a super ripped Viking, he is quite boring as the lead. It's not his fault. But for whatever reason, Eggers didn't show us how the incredibly happy child, Amleth,  (see Eggers doesn't even hide being inspired by Hamlet) grew into an angry Viking. If Amleth had a real tough time after the assassination of his father, it only would have made you root for him more. And perhaps even explain why he takes his sweet time acting out his vengeance on the person who matter the most. Without it, you won't care that much. You are expected to go with it, and I was. But it becomes hard if you are made to wait for real dramatic things to happen. There is a scene where young Amleth is reciting what he is going to do once he grows up. I am aware that this is intended as a memorable sequence that ties into a later scene. And yes, at that moment you do feel something. Still, this scene would have been far more powerful and impactful had they opted for a better child actor. They way he performs makes his scenes like a parody. 

Speaking of parody. At one point, awful murders have occurred. But Fjölnir and co are clueless of what is going on. There aren't that many people around. Just by sheer deduction, you could have figured out who it was. But OK, let's for argument’s sake say that it is difficult. Wouldn't you at least make sure you keep an eye on the slaves, or even make it impossible for them to run around free while you are sleeping? Also, why does Amleth wait so long to carry out his vengeance? I get that sometimes you want people to suffer a little. But in this film Amleth had a dozen opportunities to get it over with but simply refuses to do so. One could argue that he was waiting for the perfect moment to rescue his mother and kill Fjölnir quickly right after. I call that weak sauce. The delay only makes sense if Fjölnir had a large army. Amleth would not be able to do anything without them noticing. Thing is that there is no army. The mother played by Nicole Kidman is also a hilarious affair. Her face is so fake that it looks like a mask, In a very important scene you can't take her seriously because of that. 

I loved The Witch. It was an immensely creepy and effective horror film. So once I read that Eggers was attached to this project, I was sure he wouldn't let me down. But he did. The Northman is a surprisingly empty and boring tale with no redeeming factors whatsoever. Don't watch this, it's a giant waste of your time!

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