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The Northman
The Northman © Universal Pictures.

The Northman was another Hollywood movie that I wanted to see in theaters but missed. Just like The Last Duel, even if the movie ended up being bad (which they weren't), I wanted to see it in theaters to support the continued production of movies like this -- movies that aren't just another in the endless onslaught of comic book movies and nostalgia reboots from the late 80's and 90's. I want Hollywood to keep making these sorts of serious historic dramas.

But I haven't been to a movie theater in over 2 years thanks to the COVID pandemic. I would have been willing to go to the theaters for this (as well as for The Last Duel), but stuff kept coming up. We kept putting it off until, before we knew it, The Northman was out of theaters. But I'm no hypocrite. I also haven't seen any comic book movies in theaters either. I waited to see Spider-Man: No Way Home and The Batman until they were on streaming, and I still haven't seen Multiverse of Madness.

Much like The Last Duel, Northman is a brutal and dirty movie. Nobody gets blood-eagled, but there is plenty of violence, both grotesque and cathartic. Even the non-violent parts of the movie are grotesque and intense. Grown men built like trucks scream at each other, dance around, and even occasionally cry. This movie is constantly bombarding the audience with weird stuff, and it's all mesmerizing.

Northman threads a fine line between completely believable historical fiction and some mythological elements. On the one hand, I would believe the movie if it told me that it was inspired by true events. On the other hand, it's never entirely clear if the mythological content is actually supposed to be interpreted as really happening, of if they simply reflect the characters' belief in their gods and magics. Either way, the gritty, dirty, realistic settings are occasionally juxtaposed with beautiful and imaginative fantastical imagery.

The Northman - gritty setting
© Universal Pictures
The Northman - fantastical imagery
© Universal Pictures
The gritty, realistic setting is juxtaposed with imaginative fantastical imagery.

The locations, sets, and cinematography are all outstanding. It's a lovely movie to look at, despite the graphic nature of some of its scenes. The only exception is maybe the climactic confrontation in the volcano. It looks good, but it's a bit too dark and smoky and kind of hard to see exactly who is who and what is going on. But maybe that's the point, since by now, both characters are so consumed by their need for revenge that it doesn't really matter who is who anymore.

The actual plot is a simple and straight-forward story of revenge. There's a few minor twists, but for the most part, you get exactly what you came to see: an angry viking enacting revenge on the chieftain who murdered his father and usurped his throne.

Anyway, because everything is so straight-forward, there isn't really a lot to say -- not even much in the way of spoilers. I guess all I can say is that if you missed this one in theaters (and it's box office numbers suggest that most of use missed this one in theaters), then I highly recommend taking a break from the relentless onslaught of mediocre Marvel and Star Wars content and check out The Northman on Peacock, or HBO Max, or whatever streaming service it happens to be on. I think we rented it through Amazon Prime.

The Northman - volcano duel
The Northman © Universal Pictures
What you see is what you get in this straight-forward historical revenge drama.

Hopefully, this and The Last Duel do well enough on streaming that Hollywood does not give up on these sorts of movies. Hopefully the idiot executives realize the extenuating circumstances that are still limiting theater attendance, and don't just write these sorts of movies off as non-viable as big-budget tentpole releases. I get that the days of Braveheart, Gladiator, and Saving Private Ryan are probably long gone, and historic dramas might never be the blockbusters that they used to be. But there is still an appetite for them, and that appetite will likely grow as franchise fatigue sets in for more and more people.

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