The Northman: A Review

My wife and I just caught an advance screening of “The Northman.” I tend to be a homebody these days, so when she told me last week she had passes to a movie, she quickly added, “This is your kind of movie.”

She was right. Mostly.

It stars a totally ripped, berserking Alexander Skarsgård as Amleth, a Viking prince whose uncle murders his father and takes Amleth’s mother as his wife. If that sounds like the plot of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” you’re right — but in fact, Shakespeare, um, “borrowed” his plot from an old Viking tale and changed the protagonist’s name from Amleth to Hamlet.

Writers refer to such a process as “recycling.” It’s a good thing.

One big difference between Shakespeare’s tragedy and director Robert Eggers’ movie is that there’s nothing indecisive about the main character of “The Northman.” When young Amleth witnesses his father’s murder, he escapes and apprentices himself to Vikings, who teach him the finer points of plundering and fighting dirty as he plots his revenge. His determination is so single-minded that he doesn’t seem to care who gets hurt along the way, including enslaving peaceful villagers and torching their homes. That, I think, makes him an unsympathetic character.

And what a blood-soaked revenge it is! Witches and magical ravens guide Amleth to a mystical sword, which he uses to spill the guts of his uncles’s goons until he’s finally face to face with his uncle. Rather than a retelling of “Hamlet,” the tone of the movie is more reminiscent of “Conan the Barbarian,” “Gladiator,” and “Braveheart.”

“The Northman” is a gory romp, but certainly not for the kiddies.

12 thoughts on “The Northman: A Review”

    1. David,

      Oh, definitely. Several scenes were just over the top, such as when Amleth’s mother kisses him passionately. You should’ve heard the audience groan and laugh.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Howdy, Mike. If you have Netflix, you might like Katla, a limited series. It’s partly about humanoids that emerge from the bowels of a volcano. My wife and I don’t normally watch this type of show. We liked it quite a lot. Neil S.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. WOW. Incredible how the Vikings are being used right now. Quite a few series on Netflix. We watched the first season of The Last Kingdom and liked it but gave up with the later seasons. Being Scandinavian I feel weary about it. I mean, it is meaningless to put so much violence and gore up in front of us. Growing up in Denmark, I never got into the Vikings… not until in my fourties, when I went back to school, to the Scandinavian department at UC Berkeley, did I study that period. Funny enough, when we were kids in the sixties, the boys played Cowboys and Indians (Native Americans). I am not intending to be racist here, but how interesting is it that one culture adapts violence from a group of people outside their culture, and now, the Vikings are very popular in the United States…

    Liked by 1 person

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