So yeah, it’s been a pretty great movie year so far. However, after the malaise of 2020 and the first half of 2021, it still feels a little weird adjusting to a film schedule where there is at least one intriguing movie to look forward to every couple of weeks. The latest of such movies is Robert Eggers’ The Northman, a seemingly majestic and grim Viking revenge epic. While Eggers isn’t a household name for casual moviegoers, he has carved out a reputation among cinephiles as a bizarre but visually gifted auteur. He utilizes striking imagery and meditative subtext to provide gorgeous but heady films ripe for online deep dives and thematic clues that may or may not be intentional.
His most well-known movies are the horror film The Witch (2015) and the dark, twisted fantasy The Lighthouse (2019). The former helped announce Eggers as an artist to watch, while the latter was one of my favorite movies of 2019. An engaging blend of horror, terrific acting from William Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, and even a significant dose of comedy. It also utilized surrealist imagery, causing viewers to either take the film’s strange events at face value or contemplate their deeper meaning. However, what I like most about his filmography is he never leaves you being able to predict what he’ll do next. This brings us to The Northman, a highly anticipated odyssey that looks like one of the most visceral and action-packed movies of the year:
This certainly looks like a testosterone-heavy good time, a mix of familiar elements in an exciting new package. The most obvious comparisons we can draw upon are Gladiator, 300, and Conan the Barbarian. The classic tale of the stoic warrior who goes through intense training and various trials, coming out of it as a steely stallion that often must overthrow an oppressive regime, obtain his revenge, or both. It also sports a stacked cast – including Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawk, Bill Skarsgård, Anya Taylor-Joy, and chised lead Peter Skarsgård.
It’s partially the type of movie you wouldn’t expect from Eggers. This seemingly straightforward action spectacle aims to pump up your adrenaline rather than teasing your brain with symbolism and metaphorical imagery. Of course, I don’t say this like it’s a bad thing. Instead, it’s an interesting pivot for a filmmaker who continues to surprise. And hell, for all we know, there is some deep thematic richness beneath the surface of the actual movie. At the very least, the internet will be abundant with theories, like there’s a goat in the movie that symbolizes childbirth or some shit. While the intellectuals debate that, the rest of us will enjoy one of the best directors working today crafting a Nordic battle extravaganza, with all the bells and whistles to satisfy our bloodthirst.
The Northman opens in theaters wide on April 22nd.