Powerful, incredibly bloody, vengeance-fueled Viking saga.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Northman is a bloody Viking revenge epic starring Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgård, and Anya Taylor-Joy. It's powerfully and expertly made by director Robert Eggers but has intense, mature violence and sexual situations. Expect gory battle scenes; characters being hit with arrows, swords, and axes; a man ripping another man's throat with his teeth; severed heads, mutilated faces, and mutilated corpses; and the suggested deaths of a child, dog, horse, and more. Families are forcibly separated. Several characters appear to have sex -- and some women appear to be forcibly grabbed -- with thrusting, touching, and partial bare bottoms and breasts seen. A man tries to rape an enslaved woman; she deters him by lifting her dress and showing him her menstrual blood. There are other sexual situations and sex-related dialogue, as well as uses of "bastard," "bitch," "whore," "hell," "swine," and "piss." Characters eat a "magic" mushroom stew and go on "bad trips," and there's social drinking in taverns.
Definitely not for children or teens
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One of the most solid films I have seen in a long time!
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What's the Story?
Loosely inspired by Shakespeare's Hamlet, THE NORTHMAN opens in the year 895, with King Aurvandill War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) returning home to his wife, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman), and young son, Amleth (Oscar Novak), after a long voyage. The king's brother, Fjölnir (Claes Bang), arrives and betrays him, assassinating him in a sneak attack. Amleth sees his mother being kidnapped and flees, vowing revenge. Years later, he has become a fearsome Viking (Alexander Skarsgård). When Amleth encounters a witch and learns Fjölnir's location, he disguises himself as an enslaved person and boards a ship for Iceland. He meets a healer named Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) and forms an unexpected bond with her. Forced to labor on a remote farm, Amleth meets another witch and is told the location of a magic sword. With the sword, Amleth begins to carry out his revenge, killing Fjölnir's men one by one. But before he battles Fjölnir himself in a fiery showdown, Amleth must face a terrible truth -- and make an impossible decision.
Is It Any Good?
Director Robert Eggers has created a powerful saga full of passion, rage, and dark fantasy. As with his remarkable debut feature The Witch, Eggers seems to have poured a ton of research into The Northman, as well as teaming with veteran Icelandic writer Sjón (Lamb) to capture an eerie authenticity. It feels like being transported back in time, rather than watching actors in costumes. Even though there's actually little going on here outside of a revenge plot, the movie has weight to it, something at stake. It feels like it was created by people who take pride in their craft.
Recalling David Lowery's entrancing The Green Knight, The Northman switches with ease from earthy battle sequences slippery with mud and gore to unreal sequences of witches or Valkyries, all belonging to the same world. Yet as he proved with his previous movie, The Lighthouse, Eggers is equally skilled with actors and characters. The performances here are all impressive, but Kidman in particular can be so ferocious and startling that her work may feel like an actual sting. As for the overarching revenge plot, it does take 137 minutes to march toward the inevitable. But once it gets there, it does so with a surprisingly primal, visual palette, and it also manages to show the act as an exhausting, ever spiraling curse without end.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about The Northman's violence. How did it make you feel? Was it exciting? Shocking? What did the movie show or not show to achieve this effect? Why is that important?
How is sex depicted in the movie? Which moments are problematic? Why? Have values changed since the time of the Vikings?
Why do you think Amleth ultimately chose revenge? Why might it have been extremely difficult for him to choose love and healing instead? Why is it difficult for us to pursue things we haven't been exposed to?
What's the appeal of Viking stories? What can we learn from that time and place?
How are women represented in the movie? Do they have their own agency and power?
- In theaters: April 22, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: May 13, 2022
- Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicole Kidman
- Director: Robert Eggers
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy
- Run time: 137 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong bloody violence, some sexual content and nudity
- Last updated: December 7, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
The Green Knight
Sex, violence in knight's dreamlike, entrancing adventure.
Violent animated adventure is no kiddie movie.
Bloody, fanboyish retelling of an ancient battle.
Masterful but really violent Oscar winner.
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For kids who love epic action
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