Robert Eggers, auteur of the itchiest goddamn cinema, is back with a new film starring Alexander Skarsgard, The Northman. Skarsgard fulfills his destiny by playing Thor a Viking prince called Amleth. In medieval Scandi literature, Amleth is the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a boy whose father, the king, is murdered by his uncle and his throne usurped. If you’ve never read any Norse/Scandinavian medieval literature, Amleth is a good place to start—either in the Prose Edda or the twelfth century Amlethus—or I also recommend the Icelandic epic poem Njal’s Saga. Full of burnings, beheadings, bewitchings, the Norse go hard as f-ck, their epic poems are some heavy metal sh-t.


The Northman looks no different. There is burning, there is beheading, there is bewitching. Nicole Kidman looks ethereal as Amleth’s mother, Ethan Hawke plays the doomed king, Claes Bang is the wretched Uncle Fjölnir, and Icelandic treasure Björk is on hand as a witch. There is also a cavalcade of returning Eggers collaborators, including Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Willem Dafoe, and Anya Taylor-Joy, and there’s a Valkyrie with braces that I am SUPER curious about. And, this being a Robert Eggers film, everyone looks like they have goddamn lice. He makes the ITCHIEST movies, I swear. I never sit through one of his films that I am not CONVINCED every costume is deeply scratchy, and every actor at least vaguely uncomfortable all of the time.


But mostly, I am here for Alexander Skarsgard as a rampaging Viking warrior, the role he was always meant to play. It’s not that Skarsgard has been entirely without good work in the years since True Blood, he’s had excellent supporting turns in shows like Succession, Big Little Lies, and a starring role in The Little Drummer Girl. And on the film side, he’s been great in stuff like Melancholia, Passing, and The Diary of a Teenage Girl. But I also kind of feel like Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with him. He’s a big handsome blonde dude but he’s got darker corners and a twistier presence than any Hemsworth, and if you’re a giant blonde dude in Hollywood right now, they just want you to be an off-the-rack Hemsworth. But Alexander Skarsgard is not that. Maybe The Northman can be a kind of reset, a chance for him to carve out a clearer niche away from the Hemsworth mold.