Robert Eggers latest historical epic “The Northman” was not a bad movie, but it wasn’t a good movie either. Visually stunning, amazing audio design, and spectacular moments of epic fantasy could not save the film from blunder as it over promised the action and over delivered the cringe. I get it, this was supposed to be a historically accurate telling of Viking culture. Farting/belching as ceremony, acting like a dog, enslaving people, and murdering children being the major takeaways. When there was violence, it was violent which I appreciated, though from the trailer I was promised an epic fantasy with a long-haired Viking taking revenge for the murder of his father. What I got was a dude with a bowl cut sneaking around posing as a slave and tripping balls for 2 and a half hours.
With historical accuracy being one of the major draws of the film one would think that attention to detail would be extremely important. This seemed to be the case when it came to the art department, but there were several major mistakes that kept me from being able to fully immerse myself in the world. One being all the Botox, I don’t think they had plastic surgery in A.D. 895 but who the hell am I to question? I mean they spent 90 million dollars on the flick, so they must be right. The accents were the other big stand out flaw in my opinion. There were times they sound Norwegian, other times they sounded English, sometimes they sounded like Americans doing English accents. Was it as bad as Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder in “Bram Stokers Dracula”? No, but the theme of this review is that it’s not bad, but it’s not good either and this falls right in line with that concept.
As I said before there was action, but if you watch it expecting to see a “Gladiator” style epic you are going to be extremely disappointed. I would argue the action in “Norseman” does a way better job, in fact I would say “Norseman” accomplishes everything this film did not. Though “Norseman” is a comedy it still manages to capture Vikings in a way that “The Northman” didn’t. The ceremony I spoke of earlier, the one with the farting and belching. That happens and it feels weird, but that could be due to the fact that the guy next to me had eaten a dead body for dinner. He was blowing ass so rancid that there were times I audibly gaged and had to lean into my date. I would huff her perfume like it was the first time I ever smelled. Did he ever excuse himself, hell no. He just kept at it for 2 and a half hours. So, I guess I got to watch “The Northman” in smell-o-vision.
I wish I could end this review by saying that “The Northman” was a wild ride, and that the “Hamlet” style telling was a powerful driver of emotional storytelling. I wish could say that it was better than the trailer, but I can’t. Most of the cool stuff was in the trailer which played better than the film. Minus the bad accents the acting was good all be it wasted on a visual masterpiece with all style and no real substance. A murderer wants to avenge his fathers murder by murdering him and his whole crew. The “hero” stands by while children are burned alive in a house and executes some of the dumbest tactical logic I have ever seen in a movie. I miss the “Braveheart” days when epics were more than a few nude asses a top a beautiful background. The ability to mix graphic scenes of violence and storytelling is an art lost. I give the film 3 out of 5 stars. 1 star for the visual beauty of the film, 1 star for the powerful sound design, and 1 star for the scenes of epic fantasy. -1 star for the story and -1 star for the false promises of action and adventure.