The Northman

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Drama;
Box Office $34.23 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence, some sexual content and nudity.
Stars Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gustav Lindh, Elliott Rose, Willem Dafoe, Oscar Novak, Björk.

Director Robert Eggers’ The Northman provides him a nice opportunity to deliver a Viking history lesson. Not through the film itself, which is basically Hamlet by way of Conan the Barbarian, but through a commentary track in which he points out where historical research influenced the story and look of the film.

He also spends a surprising amount of time in the commentary picking apart things he doesn’t like about the film that he wishes he could have done in better in hindsight. So, points for honesty.

The Northman is a grimy tale of revenge set in the 10th century, and is based on the Scandinavian legend of Amleth — the same stories that also provided the source material for Shakespeare’s Hamlet (or, as Ethan Hawke helpfully points out in the bonus materials, The Lion King), for those so inclined to notice a few similarities in the plot.

In the film, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) is a Viking prince who, as a boy, was forced to flee his kingdom after witnessing his father’s murder at the hands of his uncle (Claes Bang), who subsequently also married his mother (Nicole Kidman) in seizing the throne. Growing up as a Viking warrior known as a berserker, Amleth vows revenge against his uncle, participating in raids on isolated villages until he gets a chance to strike.

He eventually learns his uncle was deposed and is living on a farm in Iceland. Amleth makes his way to the island, where he encounters a young sorceress named Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), who agrees to aid him as part of a prophecy.

Impressively shot with some well-staged action sequences, the film is dark and bloody, though watching it after the commentary will probably take some of the edge off it.

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The Blu-ray includes about 40 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes that delve further into the Viking lore that influenced the movie.

The 12-minute “An Ageless Epic” focuses on the film’s story and historic accuracy; the 11-minute “The Faces of Vikings” explores the characters; and the five-minute “A Norse Landscape” shows off the film’s locations and set design.

Getting into more specific aspects of the film, the four-minute “Amleth’s Journey to Manhood” looks at the filming of a ritual early in the story; the four-minute “Shooting the Raid” deals with the film’s approach to action through the shooting of a centerpiece sequence; and the three-minute “Knattleikr Game” discusses an ancient game that is played at a key point in the plot.

Finally, there are nine short deleted scenes that run a total of about 13 minutes, most of which are inconsequential extensions to scenes in the movie.

Viking Saga ‘The Northman’ Headed to Digital June 6, Disc June 7

The Viking saga The Northman will be available on digital with exclusive bonus content June 6, and on 4K Ultra HD Collector’s Edition, Blu-ray Collector’s Edition and DVD June 7 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

From director Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse), the film stars Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe, Claes Bang and Björk.

In the film, after witnessing first-hand the murder of his father, a Viking prince (Skarsgård) devotes his life to avenge his father’s death, save his mother and reclaim his kingdom.

Bonus features include nine deleted and extended scenes and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

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Netflix: ‘The Weekend Away,’ ‘Vikings: Valhalla’ Top Movie, TV Show Streamed Through March 6

The Netflix original series “Vikings: Valhalla” was the streamer’s most-viewed episodic program with more than 113.3 million hours streamed across 90 countries for the week ended March 6. That topped the movie A Weekend Away with 44.4 million hours streamed across 93 countries.

The latter stars Leighton Meester as a woman who travels to Croatia for a weekend getaway with her best friend. When her friend goes missing, Meester is forced to figure out what happened to her. In the sequel to “Vikings,” 100 have passed and a new generation of heroes arises to forge its own destiny — and make history in “Vikings: Valhalla.”

Among the top three movies was action newcomer Against the Ice, starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, with 30.7 million hours streamed across 93 countries, and Tyler Perry’s A Madea Homecoming with 26.4 million hours across 42 countries.

Rounding out Netflix’s Top 3 English-language TV shows, was previous chart topper “Inventing Anna,” with 77.5 million hours viewed in its fourth week across 90 countries, and “Pieces of Her” with 53.6 million hours in its debut week across 71 countries.

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Amazon Prime Video Lands Final ‘Vikings’ Half-Season Ahead of Pay-TV

In a switch, Amazon Prime Video has secured the final half-season of period drama “Vikings,” with the 10 episodes set to drop on the SVOD service on Dec. 30. The Emmy-winning historical drama series from creator and sole writer Michael Hirst (Academy Award winning film Elizabeth and the Emmy and Golden Globe nominated series “The Tudors”) is a family saga that tells the tales of the lives and epic adventures of the Nordic raiders and explorers of the Dark Ages.

It was originally created for the History Channel in 2013. The Disney-owned network will broadcast the final episodes at an undisclosed date. The initial 10 episodes of the 20-episode season aired on History beginning Dec. 4, 2019.

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“Prime Video has already delighted Prime members with all five-and-a-half seasons of ‘Vikings,'” Brad Beale, VP of worldwide content licensing for Prime Video, said in a statement. “Prime members in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Austria and Ireland will be the first to learn the fates of the beloved characters as the epic drama concludes.”

The first part of the final season concluded with an epic battle between the Rus and Vikings where brother fought brother, Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig) fighting for his homeland alongside King Harald (Peter Franzen) against Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen) now fighting with the Rus forces in an attempt to gain control of Norway. The battle ends in tragedy with Bjorn left for dead on the battlefield, betrayed by Ivar and with the future of their ancestral home, Kattegat, at stake.

“Prime Video will uniquely expose the series finale to a streaming audience first,” Hirst said. “Prepare to be astonished, and for many surprises along the way. And if you have tears to shed, then also be prepared to shed them.”

First Half of ‘Vikings’ Season Six on Disc Oct. 13

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Vikings: Season 6 Vol. 1 on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Oct. 13.

The sixth season of the History Channel original series picks up after the battle between brothers that has left Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) victorious and a hero to the people who have been under the tyrannical rule of Ivar (Alex Høgh Andersen). As the new leader of Kattegat, Bjorn struggles to fill his late father’s shoes as king, while facing several dilemmas and wrestling with the idea that power overshadows morals. Meanwhile, Ivar, searching for a new path to separate him from his past, travels the Silk Road to Russia, where he meets the ruthless Prince Oleg (Danila Kozlovsky).

This season also finds Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) seeking a quieter and less public life on her farm, while the Vikings continuing to take over Scandinavia as Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) and Torvi (Georgia Hirst) travel to Iceland to uncover the mystery circling Floki’s (Gustaf Skarsgård) disappearance, and Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø) pursues his personal vendetta against Ivar.

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The series earned an average of 34 million total viewers per episode during the season, making it one of top five dramas across ad-supported cable in the United States.

The home video release includes the first 10 episodes of the season, plus the featurette “The Legacy of Lagertha,” deleted scenes, and a creator’s audio commentary dubbed “The Best Laid Plans.”

This is the first season of the show released on disc by Warner Bros. Previous seasons were released by Fox in conjunction with MGM.

Netflix Partners with MGM for ‘Vikings’ Series Return

Netflix is partnering with MGM Television for a new original series, “Vikings: Valhalla,” from creator Michael Hirst that continues the “Vikings” series that is now in its sixth and final season on the History channel.

The new saga begins 100 years after the original series concludes and dramatizes the adventures of the most famous Vikings who ever lived — Leif Erikson, Freydis, Harald Harada and the Norman King William the Conqueror (also a Viking descendant). These men and women will blaze new paths as they fight for survival in an ever changing and evolving Europe.

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MGM, which produced the series for History, said it is “thrilled” to partner with original creators and Netflix on the series.

“Valhalla has been a labor of love for everyone involved and as we look ahead to the continuation of this great saga, we are excited to know that fans the world over will have the opportunity to continue with the series on its new home at Netflix,” Steve Stark, president of television production and development, said in a statement.

“‘Vikings: Valhalla’ promises to be everything that fans love about the franchise: heart-pounding, unstoppable action rooted in rich characters and dramatic storytelling that shines the light on family, loyalty and power,” added Channing Dungey, VP of original series for Netflix.

Second Half of ‘Vikings’ Season 5 on Disc Oct. 8

MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release Vikings: Season 5 Vol. 2 on Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 8.

In this half-season, Ivar the Boneless’ tyrannical reign as king of Kattegat ushers in a new Dark Age for Scandinavia. And while Bjorn and Lagertha flee Ivar’s murderous forces with Bishop Heahmund, Duke Rollo’s return brings even more upheaval. Meanwhile, Floki battles the elements-as well as his settlers’ thirst for revenge-in beautiful, desolate Iceland. Ultimately, the sons of Ragnar and old sworn enemies must become allies to challenge the despot Ivar, who has declared himself a god. The gut-wrenching action and dramatic plot twists reach a fever pitch as the season unfolds.

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The Blu-ray and DVD will include extended versions of all 10 episodes (broadcast versions are not included with the DVD edition).

Extras include commentaries with creator Michael Hirst and actor Gustaf Skarsgard, deleted scenes, and featurettes “The Epic War of Ragnar’s Sons” and “The King and the Warrior Bishop.”