Towards the end of the first movie by Robert Egger in 2015 called “The Witch,” Anya Taylor-Joy’s character joins a group of witches in the woods and vanishes into thin air (quite literally). However, Eggers’ third film, “The Northman,” does not seem to have made an impact, and it never reaches its moment of flight and never floats into the air.
Despite efforts from the Valkyries and Odin’s ravens, this Viking action art piece is fettered to the ground by the demands of the studio gods. In this third part, Eggers is adapting a tale that is said to have inspired the renowned “Hamlet,” but he seems to have got a bigger budget along with even bigger names.
These fit on Eggers’ filmmaking sensibility like a shirt of mail that’s too small. His other two movies are unpredictable and deeply weird, and this one feels too foretold.
The first part of the movie is reportedly the most inspired. Eggers is said to unfold his mythic version of ninth-century Scandinavia like a Bayeux Tapestry, as the story takes us through it section by section. A king (played by Ethan Hawke) seems to have come home from the war to visit his wife (played by Nicole Kidman) and son, Amleth. Hawke is more than convincing in the character of King Aurvendil, even until he is murdered by the hands of his brother Fjölnir (played by the Danish actor Claes Bang), who wants the kingdom for himself. Amleth escapes with a promise of vengeance. He then grows into a wolfish ravager (played by Alexander Skarsgård).
Skarsgård is a bit old for the role at 45, but he isn’t the problem at all, and Kidman is certainly not. At the ending of a second act that begins to sag, she revitalizes the story in a scene that should be the key highlights of her long-lasting career. Taylor-Joy is back, trading her Puritan garb in the role for a Slavic sorceress, but now that an accent hampers her, it feels both unplaceable and generic.
The script has Eggers co-written along with poet and novelist Sjón, is so beautiful at moments that the one or two times when it drops from Eddaic have now turned into that Hollywood clichés. While there were moments when the audiences’ jaws dropped, they still didn’t leave the theatre wanting to rewatch the movie anytime soon.
If one wants to watch a great Robert Eggers movie, they can stream “The Witch.”