Shot beautifully, another film that benefits primarily from the natural majesty of its settings, as Iceland is the New Zealand of the northern hemisphere —a small, well-run island nation with scenery that’s cinematic and beautiful and alien without even trying. Rolling green, steely skies, smoky darkness, glowing fire. Two butt-ass naked men swing swords among seething flows of lava. Bitter forest glades with CGI snowflakes whirling. Psychedelic caves, infinite ice fields. Brilliant setting after brilliant setting. The soundtrack howls, groans, moans, slams, pounds, screams as the drones give us swooping aerial views.
It’s violent and graphic and gory, though not as much as I expected. I’m no viking expert, but I’m told The Northman is very historically accurate. My real surname traces all the way back to the mountain slopes of Norway. These are my ancestors. What a bunch of psychos. There is so much screaming, yelling, roaring in this movie. All Vikings did was battle-scream at each other, it seems. They would’ve slaughtered my flabby, American, corn-syrup-fed ass and not thought twice about it.
Everyone in the cast is solid. Solid work all around. Everyone enjoys sinking their teeth into the stylized dialogue. The dialogue is for Vikings what Deadwood was to the old West — overly poetic and flowery but pleasing to the ear and not too hard to understand. It’s Game of Thrones for history buffs. Forgive me for saying that.
Alexander Skarsgaard carries the movie well, though his accent is not always 100 percent. The image of his hulking shoulder muscles will forever stay with me. Anya Taylor Joy is his fair, pale Slav wife. Nicole Kidman is the kidnapped queen with motives of her own. Claus Bang is the treacherous uncle. I’d never heard of him, he looks like another random Game of Thrones extra. Gustav Lindh is the eldest son of Bang and he looks like a discount Ezra Miller. Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, and Bjork are barely in it, though they earn the screentime they have, especially Hawke who looks like he’s having a fucking blast.
This is an okay movie, all things considered, but I was bored after the halfway mark. It takes itself really seriously and doesn’t quite justify its screentime. The third act drags like a dead horse. The Northman is well made, but not the epic masterpiece it’s aiming to be.