What also doesn’t help is Eggers’ unwavering, full-throttle maximalism, an approach that unflatteringly dovetails into two additional otherwise first-rate films currently in theaters: Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s aforementioned multiverse family caper Everything Everywhere All At Once and Michael Bay’s old-school action flick Ambulance. One wonders if this trend toward cinematic excess is an artistic act of disobedience against the sameness of corporate franchises, or simply a response to two-plus years of filmmakers (much less audiences) being cooped up in their homes.


Regardless, The Northman is still a lot of fun scene by scene, even without a strong through line connecting them all. Though lacking a well-realized emotional register, the film achieves an elemental, opulent vibe that splits the difference between Braveheart and Gladiator, or maybe The Revenant and The Lion King. Meanwhile, Eggers and Sjón infuse the dialogue with a light, giggly touch that leavens the film’s heavy visuals with self-conscious humor.

Consequently, Eggers’ immersive approach and stylistic flair creates one wild, applause-worthy combat scene after another, reminding viewers why he’s one of the most unique visual artists working today. While The Northman isn’t his best film, it’s probably his most, putting absolutely everything on screen at the biggest scale to tell the most brutal, and beautiful, story possible.