Why The Northman’s Reviews Are So Positive

Robert Eggers’ epic Viking drama, The Northman, opened to primarily positive reviews from critics, with the director’s visuals being highly praised.

Robert Eggers’ 2022 film The Northman has opened to rave reviews from critics, with the all-star cast, thrilling revenge story, and striking visuals receiving much of the positive praise. as only Robert Eggers’ third feature film, The Northman follows the director’s distinctive style as it tells an action-packed Viking revenge tale with a much larger scope than Eggers is used to. The director manages to put his larger budget, new ensemble cast, and epic historic tale in The Northman to proper use, leaving the majority of critics satisfied.

The Northman brings back Eggers’ collaborator Anya-Taylor Joy, and currently stands slightly below his past two films in terms of critical reviews, but not by much. At press time, The Northman‘s Rotten Tomatoes critics score is certified fresh at 89 percent, with his acclaimed indie movies witch (2015) and The Lighthouse (2019) both standing with ratings of 90 percent. Competing in its opening weekend with the goal Nicolas Cage comedy The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, The Northman‘s Rotten Tomatoes score falls shortly behind the former’s 93 percent critics rating.


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With The Northman Maintaining the high critical acclaim of Eggers’ previous ventures at its debut, the 2022 movie brings the director into a new scale of filmmaking without losing any of his masterful artistic touches. The film’s reviews are largely positive due to the familiarity of the story that Eggers adjusts with his engaging, maddening style of him, as well as the can’t-look-away visual marvel that he is able to bring to life with a much higher budget. While Eggers’ style is also distinctive and difficult for some to master, the performances of the actors, particularly those by frequent horror actor Alexander Skarsgård and Nicole Kidman, are so engaging that the risk of Eggers’ changing scope pays off. Even if critics find fault in his attempts at thematic wisdom, The Northman‘s reviews remain positive by virtue of its direction, breathtaking visuals, and performances. Here’s what The Northman‘s positive reviews are saying:


Instead, this gory Viking tale works when considering its parts, but never really as a whole. The parts, however, are so thrilling, so uniquely calibrated to feverish, determined ends, that they elevate the entire film. Because how can one complain about the “too muchness” of the Valkyries? How can one scoff at the dizzying, unexplainable flights of magic? The Northman makes you happy it exists, even if you’re not totally happy with it.


I get the sense that Eggers’ goal here is a simpler, more direct one — to interpret a very old story anew, to deliver the narrative goods (betrayal, murder, revenge, redemption) with the help of his largest budget yet, and to let Björk be Björk, in all her sublime Björkiness. In this, The Northman delivers.”


The Northman is a horribly violent, nihilistic and chaotic story about the endless cycle of violence, the choice between loving your friends and hating your enemies – which turns out to be no choice at all, and the thread of fate down which masculinity’s delicious toxin drips . It’s entirely outrageous, with some epic visions of the flaring cosmos. I couldn’t look away.


The Northman is gory, muddy, hallucinatory—and intensely entertaining. An examination of the way that violence begets violence, and a study of how a life devoted to single-minded hatred and vengeance can lead to uncomfortable truths, this is a movie that lives up to every saga comic books and metal bands ever spun about the brutal conquerors of yore. Practically every shot in “The Northman” is gorgeous, but Blaschke’s lighting… brings dread and unease into that beauty, matching the intricate but unsettling sound design.


The Northman works best when plotting momentum is an afterthought, and when it luxuriates in the smoky, shadowy atmosphere created by Eggers and his collaborators. With viciousness relegated to its margins, it often feels neutered and bloodless, but still ends up on the right side of entertaining thanks to its pulsating music and measured performances.”

The Northman - Alexander Skarsgård

While critics can’t deny the marvels of Eggers’ visuals and gripping atmosphere, some weren’t as taken by The Northman‘s storytelling styles, particularly its false endings, Hollywood-influenced narrative, and dulled emotional stakes. Since Eggers made a name for himself through his unconventional direction and style of him, the negative reviews for The Northman suggest a disappointment in the movie’s more mainstream Hollywood path, with critics longing for the nontraditional cores of the Anya-Taylor Joy-starring witch and the Willem Dafoe-led The Lighthouse. Here’s what some of the negative reviews are saying about The Northman:


The Northman… lacks the element of surprise that made The Witch and The Lighthouse feel like instant classics. Eggers, who formerly let his freak flag fly with A24, has reverted to a more conventional mode for this relatively mainstream Focus Features release. Eggers ‘feat of him seems … monomaniacal in his mission of him, often at the expense of the human dimension.”


Despite all of the strangeness and brutality, The Northman isn’t quite strange or brutal enough. Stranded somewhere between an experimental art project and a mainstream Nordic answer to Gladiator, it’s certainly tamer than The Lighthouse. It feels compromised, but the great stuff outweighs the not-so-great stuff.”

Seattle Times:

Unfortunately, Eggers’ third film, “The Northman,” never reaches its moment of flight. 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.”

The biggest drawback for critics in regards to The Northman is its lack of unconventional twists and oddities that made Robert Eggers’ previous films so gripping. Rather than feeling Eggers has lost his auteur style, the negative reviews for The Northman claim Hollywood studios are to blame, suggesting the executives and test audiences may have forced Eggers to tame his shocking methodology. While The Northman may not entirely live up to the expectations of a typical Robert Eggers movie, it still offers a thrilling ride full of craft and gore.

Next: Why The Northman Will Be Bigger Than The Lighthouse (And The Witch)

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