I got distracted by reading all the audience reviews for this film. I wondered why it had a score of 2 out of 5. And the reasons are hilarious.
I’m not going to bother with what these folks thought, since my opinion is clearly the only opinion that matters.
Me and Robert Eggers don’t exactly get along. He’s done two films already that I really don’t like, The VVitch and The Lighthouse.
I reviewed Va-Vitch when it came out, but I think I might have skipped reviewing Lighthouse.
So that’s 0-2 with him. But when the first trailer for The Northman dropped, I got pleasantly optimistic, crossing my fingers that this would be the film that finally brings me into the fold.
The same thing happened with Ari Aster, I hated everything he did, but his third film Midsommar brought me aboard.
I am happy to report that yes, I did enjoy The Northman. Most likely I will be getting the 4K release when it comes to out as well. Knowing me, probably the steelbook version.
I even suffered going to the theater to see this, too. First time in almost 2 years, I think. Which I’m debating if that will be my last time as just about everything I hate about seeing a movie in theaters happened.
Thankfully no one brought their screaming baby. Though I did have to sit there as some asshole kept checking the score on his phone for whatever sports game he was watching.
That aside, the theater only had like 8 people in it, so it wasn’t like there was a cacophony of people rummaging through their candy boxes or munching popcorn.
My annoyances aside, let’s dive deeper into The Northman.
If the story seems familiar, that’s because it is once again, yet another retelling of Hamlet, though I guess in this case, this is what Hamlet was supposedly based on.
After the movie I tried to think of all the other things inspired by or based off Hamlet. Sons of Anarchy being one and of course Lion King, which I’ve still never seen.
It’s just one of those stories that adapts well.
Our main character is Amleth, though later on he does call himself Ulfr, which funny enough is what I named my Elden Ring character. It means wolf, which seems to be a bit of a motif here.
The Vikings were some weird dudes, and possibly the first furries, as they all seem to have a wolf fursona.
We start with Amleth as a young boy or in his case a young prince to Ethan Hawke’s character King Aurvandil War-Raven.
He has just returned from England with a raiding party, bringing back spoils from the journey, like slaves and a necklace that once belonged to an English prince, now given to Amleth to wear which he wears throughout the whole movie.
The queen played by Nicole Kidman wants to spend some “alone time” with her king, however he suffered a pretty bad injury during his outing.
I guess maybe a small bit of history. I’m not that well versed in the whole Viking history, but I’ll fill you in on what I know. Which may or may not be bullshit.
Denmark has wanted to rule England for years, Vikings seeing it as this holy land they can finally migrate to to escape the harsh winter weather. But they were driven out by the ruler of England.
Now Vikings invade from time to time, pillaging villages and stealing folks for slave labor.
But to them dying on the battlefield is the most glorious thing to happen, as it is the only way they can ever make it to Valhalla or how they pronounce it Valhöll.
So keep that in mind, the worst thing to them is to become a gray beard as the King states to his wife as he refuses to sleep with her.
During this time, we get a quick glance at Willem Dafoe as a jester. I don’t know how accurate Viking lords having jesters is, they don’t exactly seem like the jestering type.
The king thinks Amleth is old enough now to participate in a spiritual ritual, involving a lot of psychedelics. And of course this involved a lot of farting and belching. And you can’t have farting and belching without Willem Dafoe being in charge of it.
Netflix recently got this extremely popular Japanese game show series called Old Enough, where 4 year olds (or younger) go out on their first errand alone. I absolutely love this series, but it has stirred up some controversy in the US.
Just think how pissed off American parents would be if the show followed Viking children around. Blood would pour from their eyes!
Anyway, after the strange father and son bonding time, the king and his son are ambushed, the king’s brother leading the betrayal.
After cutting his brother’s head off, he orders his men to find Amleth and do the same to him.
Amleth manages to escape, but not before maiming one of his pursuers, slicing off his nose.
As he leaves the island, he promises to avenge his father, save his mother and kill his uncle.
Flash forward several years later and Amleth has now joined up with a berserker raiding party. This is where he and the others summons up their fursona and takes on the attitude of wolves.
I can’t really stress enough the whole wolf thing. At times people don’t even talk with words anymore and it has just devolved into them barking at each other like rabid dogs.
One thing two of Eggers’ films had in common was they’d speak a dialect I couldn’t understand. And that was my fear this time as well. The trailer and clips I watched were kind of hard to gauge what they’d be speaking.
At times it seemed like normal English, other times a cross between Shakespearean dialogue.
It wasn’t as bad as that, and thankfully I was actually able to understand what everyone was saying and talking about.
So Amleth is now a berserker, raiding villages, killing people left and right. After the raid and as the slaves are being divided up, he overhears a group that is going to be shipped out to his uncle.
He learns that his father’s kingdom has fallen and his uncle fled to Iceland where he’s pretty much just a farmer, living with his two kids and wife.
Amleth’s revenge can now finally start, getting honor for his murdered father, a pledge he’s kept since a young boy.
He brands himself a slave and sneaks onboard a slave ship headed for his uncle. There he meets the sorceress Olga who quickly sees through his disguise.
Olga is played by Anya Taylor-Joy, a favorite of Eggers. She’s okay, I don’t dislike her, she does have an interesting look about her.
She does standout mixed in with the other slaves, all the woman look like Mary from the British version of Ghosts. Then you have this silver haired supermodel standing next to them…
Getting off track, the slaves are delivered to Fjölnir, where he lives mostly in seclusion, with a handful of men and his family.
He has a new son born from Amleth’s mother and an older son who is pretty much a spoiled nitwit.
Fjölnir takes a liking to Olga, moving her to the house, where as Amleth is tasked with heavy labor and sleeps out in a hut on the ground.
That works for his benefit, as it allows him to sneak out at night and plot his revenge. But first he needs a weapon worthy of killing his uncle.
A young wolf pup leads him to a man witch who possesses Willem Dafoe’s head. Fjölnir was not kind to him after he took the throne, cutting out his tongue, eyes, ears and finally head.
The spirit of the jester leads Amleth to the burial site where he can find the Night Blade, a magical sword that can only be drawn at night. But to get it, he must fight an undead warrior.
This is were some of the weirdness comes into play. Sometimes something otherworldly will happen, and I guess it’s up to you if what we are seeing is real or actually happening. It mostly just comes across like maybe Amleth is insane or at the very least delusional.
Now that he has the sword, he sets his plan into motion. But it has to wait as he is chosen to come along on an outing that involves some kind of violent sport.
It looks like lacrosse but if you could beat the shit out of the other player with your stick.
Either way Amleth is chosen to partake in the violent sport. At first he doesn’t really get what is going on or how to play, but it’s pretty simple. Guys with sticks beat the shit out of you to get a ball to the other side of the field.
I wonder if this was the game that guy was checking on his phone during the movie?
No one really stands a chance against Amleth except for this one big dude that towers over everyone. During the excitement, Fjölnir’s youngest son runs out into the field, trying to score a point on his own.
But I guess the big dude takes this sport so seriously, he runs after the kid, almost killing him. Amleth sees him as his little brother, so he I think beats the guy to death.
After that the eldest brother rewards Amleth with a few new privileges. He can do less hard labor, he can order other slaves around and he is free to be with Olga.
Now that it is okay for him and Olga to be together, they get nice and freaky in the forest. There they also plot their revenge, her giving him a poison mushroom.
Amleth haunts the night, killing some of Fjölnir’s men. He chops them up and hangs the parts in the shape of a horse.
It’s funny, one of the reviews I read as to why they disliked this movie was because they thought it was satanic. The irony being the first thought that came to Fjölnir’s head was that this was the work of one of those Christians, as they worship a corpse.
Fearing it could be evil spirits, Fjölnir’s men stand guard at night but Olga mixes in that poison mushroom into their soup, driving everyone who ate it insane, even killing themselves.
Amleth sneaks into to his mother’s room, ready to free her from her captor, only to learn she was never a prisoner. She was the one who ordered not only the king’s death but also Amleth’s.
But to be honest, the wound the king suffered looked so bad, he might of had a week tops left before it killed him of infection. They didn’t even stitch it up, it’s just this giant gash they wrapped in a dirty rag.
All of this could have been prevented if only she waited a couple of days.
So obviously Amleth leaves upset about the news his mother is kind of a monster, putting all his anger into killing Fjölnir’s older son, stabbing him to death as he sleeps.
The queen rats Amleth out, so now he must flee.
Fjölnir knows Olga was close to him and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t tell him where he is. But Amleth returns to save her, getting captured in the process.
The only reason they don’t kill him on the spot is because Amleth removed the heart. His son can’t be at rest without his heart.
Here we get a look at a viking funeral, which includes the following… A goat getting sacrificed. A bride getting sacrificed and a whole bunch of singing in a boat.
Olga manages to free Amleth, where they plan to just leave the land and sail elsewhere, forgetting revenge.
But he learns that Olga is pregnant, knowing his uncle won’t rest until they are found. So it is time to confront them, leaving Olga.
Amleth kills his mother and little brother, setting a duel date with his uncle at the mouth of an erupting volcano. And yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.
So keep in mind what I said about having the honor of dying in the battlefield. Some might see this as a sad ending, but really it’s a happy one given his prospective. He gets his revenge, honoring his father and as his reward, gets taken to Valhöll by a beautiful Valkyrie. Can you really ask for more?
The duel they have pretty much leaves you in shock. That’s kind of the only way to really explain it, as it’s just two men who have devolved into animals barking at each other, slamming their swords together.
When the movie was over and credits rolled and the lights turned on, everyone was stone cold silent. Usually you get people talking to each other as they leave or something, but everyone was just silent even as they left the theater.
Like they couldn’t process what happened. It was like they went through their own berserker raiding party and was shell shocked because of it.
If you are like me and dig Viking movies, this is one of the best ones out there. Trust me, I know as I had this Viking kick a few years ago when I was attempting to write my own Viking script.
I don’t know just how accurate of a movie this is, but I’ve seen a few mention how pretty authentic it was. There are whole YouTube channel dedicated just to how historically accurate Viking tv shows and movies are and they seemed pretty pleased with The Northman’s portrayal of it.
And like I said at the start of the review, my opinion is the only one that matters anyway, so that’s why I’m giving The Northman a SEE IT rating.
Check this one out, it’s worth seeing in theaters.
Want EARLY access to our videos, uploads, and movie/script reviews? Members get them FIRST! Follow this link to our Discussion Forum.