The Northman (Blu-ray)

From visionary director Robert Eggers comes The Northman, an action-filled epic that follows a young Viking prince on his quest to avenge his father's murder.

June 7, 2022 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

There are a few directors out there that, when they release a new film, I’m instantly intrigued. I don’t know if Robert Eggers is quite in that “club” of mine just yet, but he’s on the precipice. His first two movies, The Witch and The Lighthouse were highly-regarded as well as critically praised, but they didn’t really seem to find a mass audience. And while I don’t think that it’s required those be seen before this, it certainly couldn’t hurt. These films have an eerie way of drawing the viewer in and, well, it works. With The Northman, Eggers has assembled quite the A-List cast and anyone clamoring for a reunion between Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård (from Big Little Lies) is certainly in for a treat. Throw in Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Anya Taylor-Joy and set it against the backdrop of Vikings – it’s safe to say that something special is on the horizon.

Skarsgård plays Amleth, a Viking prince who witnessed his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang) murder his father, Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke). Add to that Fjölnir forced the mother, Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) to marry him. How’s that for adding insult to injury? Amleth has set out to make good on his vow to avenge his father, but in order to do that he’s got to make a journey to a village in Iceland where his uncle now resides. Along the way he befriends Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), has to obtain a magical sword that, take part in a violent event and when he finally arrives finds out some shocking truths about his family.

There’s a little more to it than that, of course, but to spoil anything wouldn’t be fair to the viewer. I suppose a good way to look at this might be a very, very scaled down version of Lord of the Rings. Or not, I’m still not entirely sure. One thing I am sure of, however, is that this is certainly a visual experience. I haven’t been to a movie theater in years, but this is one that I wish I’d have seen on the largest screen possible. The cast is top notch, though it’s really all Skarsgård’s show. That’s not to say that the ensemble doesn’t do their part, they do. If there was any doubt of the vision of Robert Eggers, it should be laid to rest. The man’s got talent and an eye for creating films that entice the viewer and have them enjoy the ride along the way.

Video: How’s it look?

I remember watching The Lighthouse and the eerie, claustrophobic way the film was presented had an odd effect on me. Well that and it wasn’t using about 40% of my television screen, so there was that. With The Northman, Eggers goes wider, but…not wide enough. The Blu-ray presents the film in a somewhat atypical 2.0:1 aspect ratio. But I will say that this is one beautifully-shot film. The majestic locations to the atmospheric cinematography to the elaborate sets – this film plunges us into this world. The film does have a somewhat muted appearance (these times aren’t exactly associated with rainbows and bright blue skies), but it works with the subject matter. Suffice it to say that visually, this is one that shouldn’t be missed.

Audio: How’s it sound?

It’s always a treat when the Blu-ray has a Dolby Atmos track. It’s a relief. And it’s a nice surprise that we don’t have to pony up some extra cash for the 4K disc to get an amazing soundtrack.  And that’s what we get. It’s a vast, sweeping and dare I say – encompassing mix that’s sure to please. The rear surrounds are almost constantly churning away, the front stage is robust and active and vocals are spot on perfect. This movie makes great use of the sound with the cawing of crows, the whipping wine, clanging swords and the like. Think of movies like Braveheart or Gladiator and that’s what’s in store here.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – Given the length of the film (137 minutes) this selection of scenes were wisely cut and/or trimmed.
  • An Ageless Epic – An in-depth look at how filmmakers, cast, and crew immersed themselves in Norse history and mythology in an effort to make the film the most accurate Viking epic ever filmed.
  • The Faces of Vikings – The cast, alongside director Robert Eggers, discuss the depth of the characters and their experiences working together.
  • Audio Commentary – Writer/Director Robert Eggers goes solo with this commentary track, but for anyone who really dug the movie, it’s almost essential that this track be heard. Eggers goes into a massive amount of detail about the plot, the shoot and the cast. Given the length of the film, there are some voids, but by and large it’s a great track.
  • Amleth’s Journey to Manhood – Aurvandil’s initiation of Amleth into manhood is one of the most pivotal points on his journey. Take a deeper look at how filmmakers and cast crafted this mysterious ritual.
  • Shooting the Raid – Go behind-the-scenes of the raid and learn how different departments worked together to pull off this intricate sequence.
  • Knattleikr Game – Learn all about this little-known game, how the scene was filmed, and why it’s an essential moment for Amleth.
  • A Norse Landscape – We explore the spectacular shooting locations of the film and discuss how filmmakers were able to overcome the unique challenges of shooting the film in Northern Ireland.

The Bottom Line

Robert Eggers films are, well…a bit different. That’s to say, most will either love them or hate them (or love to hate them). I’m in the former camp. I enjoy something that goes “out there” and isn’t a cookie-cutter type of film. And that’s what this is. Universal’s disc looks and sounds terrific and it’s got enough extras to warrant a purchase.

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