The Northman Reviews Are In, And People Are Going Nuts For Alexander Skarsgård

Alexander Skarsgård in The Northman.
(Image credit: Focus Features)

Director Robert Eggersthird feature film The Northman (which follows The Witch and The Lighthouse) is by far his biggest yet. With its $90 million budget and A-list cast — led by Alexander Skarsgård — the film is a combination of historical epic and revenge thriller that left its star “truly a wreck.” All of the above is why this one is so highly anticipated. Critics had the opportunity to screen The Northman, and they had plenty of strong opinions about the movie, and Skarsgård in particular, to help us decide if we’ll be heading to the theaters when this movie premieres April 22. 

Critics’ first reactions were overwhelmingly positive for the film that stars Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Claes Bang, Björk, and Willem Dafoe alongside Alexander Skarsgård's warrior prince. They said The Northman is Robert Eggers’ most accessible film yet and the critics were captivated by the tale of revenge. Let’s dive a little deeper and see what their reviews say, starting with CinemaBlend’s review. Eric Eisenberg rates The Northman 4.5 stars of ferocious excellence. He says while the cast is full of surprises and treats, this is Alexander Skarsgård’s show, and he is impressive:

The unrelenting nature of The Northman could be a total turnoff that makes you just want to run to the closest shower, but a huge part of the film that keeps its hooks in you is Alexander Skarsgård’s performance. Given what we’ve seen from him over the course of his career, it was really only a matter of time before a big screen project came along that would let him fully show off his dramatic skills, and his turn here grabs your attention like a wolf growling and bearing its teeth five inches from your face. He wholly embodies the Viking prince, and it’s both a phenomenal and scary thing to see.

David Rooney of THR says the film is respectable if for no other reason than it is a big, noisy, brawling spectacle grounded not in comic-book superhero lore but rather in culturally specific history. This critic applauds the cast and says Alexander Skarsgård has never been fiercer or more physically imposing:

Skarsgård, who has been working for more than a decade to develop a film project rooted in his childhood love of Viking myth and lore, has never been fiercer or more physically imposing. Taylor-Joy, who got her start in The Witch, is beguiling as Olga weaves baskets and plots havoc. (Her parents from that earlier film, Kate Dickie and Ralph Ineson, also make appearances.) Kidman is a hoot, juggling fire and ice in an enjoyably over-the-top turn. And if someone doesn’t cast Bang as a Bond nemesis or some other suitably elevated evildoer soon, then Hollywood just isn’t paying attention.

Germain Lussier of Gizmodo says The Northman experiences a few bumps in the road, as it starts off as a gritty, beautifully choreographed action and then turns into a smaller psychological thriller. However, the film is never boring and is beautiful throughout. It works because we believe the characters, and he says the cast has some standouts, including the leads and a show-stealing Nicole Kidman: 

The cast has some real standouts. As the leads, Alexander Skarsgård and Anya Taylor-Joy pull off a beautiful ying-yang set of performances. Skarsgård is deadly serious at the start but as the film moves on, becomes increasingly vulnerable. Conversely, Taylor- Joy begins as a defeated slave and slowly grows into a cunning, formidable, force of nature.

Alonso Duralde of The Wrap says Robert Eggers has made a "rousingly rough, extreme action saga" that's accessible without losing his arthouse credibility. The director knows how to get his actors to a very specific wavelength, and Alexander Skarsgård takes his performance right to the edge:

Skarsgård goes borderline feral for big portions of the film, but there’s never a sense of indulgent posturing; he provides a path of understanding what drives Amieth, even as the character plunges into animalistic ferocity.

Not all of the critics were won over by the leading performance, however. Peter Debruge of Variety says despite his impressive physicality, Alexander Skarsgård lacks the charisma needed to carry such a big-budget film. Overall this critic finds the story too simple and ultimately rather dull:

Alexander’s as handsome a star as Sweden has produced, but sorely lacks the charisma to carry a movie of this scale — rumored to have cost $90 million. Though he’s bulked up significantly since his comparably physical turn in 2016’s largely unnecessary The Legend of Tarzan, muscles only go so far to compensate for the strange emptiness behind young Skarsgård’s eyes.

If this sounds like a movie you can’t miss, you can catch it in theaters starting on Friday, April 22. In the meantime, take a look at our 2022 Movie Release Schedule to see what other films are coming soon.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.