By the beating of the black raven’s wing, it’s Burl, here with a tale of blood-soaked Viking vengeance! Ha ha, I saw a new movie in the theatre the other day, which always makes me happy; and what’s more it was a real movie too, not some digitally-rendered seventh superhero sequel! By garr, it was The Northman, and as usual I’m glad I made the effort and went out to the movie house! It was worth it!
This is your basic Old Norse version of Hamlet – the main character, played by Alexander Skarsgård from Godzilla vs. Kong, is even named Amleth, which sounds like ‘Hamlet’ if you say it fast! The story starts with him as a boy, delighted by the return of his father King Aurvandil, played by Ethan Hawke from Explorers, from a pillaging and looting expedition! (The raping is only implied, but heavily so!) After Amleth is inculcated into manhood by a crazy ritual enacted by him, his dad, and the loony court jester played by Willem Dafoe from Streets of Fire, there comes the inevitable heartbreak: his beloved dad is slain by Uncle Fjolnïr, played by Claes Bang from The Square, while his mother, Nicole Kidman from Stoker, is carried off screaming!
Amleth escapes by means of a fearsome nose-biting, and rows off vowing to avenge his father and save his mother! Next thing you know it’s years later (per the runic intertitle) and Amleth, now big and tough and with a hulking stride that seems a bit affected, is working as a berserker, shouting and carrying on and ravaging villages and so forth! A mystical seeress in a really rather far-out hat, who is of course played by Björk of Drawing Restraint 9 fame, convinces Amreth it’s time to follow his fate along its path of revenge, and by pretending to be a slave he hitches a ride to Iceland, where Fjolnïr has become a gentleman farmer! Along the way he meets Olga, another slave played by Anya Taylor-Joy from Last Night in Soho!
Ah, Iceland! Ha ha, it’s a place I’ve been many times, and by garr I hope to go back there sometime soon! When Amleth gets there, he settles into the role of farm slave, biding his time for maximum vengeance! Of course he falls in love with Olga, and then begins a program of bedevilment against Fjolnïr and his farm! Ha ha, he really pulls some crazy pranks on that farm, like chopping up a couple of henchmen and pinning their remains up on the side of a building in the form of a galloping horse! Of course there soon comes a time when Amleth realizes that all is not as he had long assumed it was! Still, he’s sworn his blood oath of vengeance, and done so before Björk of all people, so what’s a feller to do? Well, it all leads to a final battle that will look familiar to anyone who’s seen Revenge of the Sith!
It’s a good gritty Viking picture, and apparently pretty authentic, as all Robert Eggers pictures seem to be! It’s not as crazy as The Lighthouse or as scary and earth-level as The Witch, but he had a lot of coin to spend on this picture, and it shows! And like his earlier movies, there’s a good balance of historical verisimilitude and supernatural happenstance! Still, I don’t think this will stand up as his best film – it’s a solid, rugged, bloody and often bold Viking picture, but nevertheless not so far from The Vikings or The 13th Warrior or even Erik the Viking as it pretends to be! It’s got a definite touch of Conan the Barbarian to it too, and that’s fine by ol’ Burl! But Amreth is a bit of a blockhead, and all the talk about fate and following it or whatever is pretty gassy stuff! Still, it looks terrific, and it's epic enough, and after all, it's a real movie, and we get precious few of those in these days of decline! I’m going to give The Northman three decapitations, which is I believe the same number the film itself contains! Ha ha!