Mortal REVIEW – Fallibly Dull

In striving to create an atmospheric and intimate film, Øvredal failed to create an interesting one.


Mortal is directed by André Øvredal, the same man who brought us The Autopsy of Jane Doe and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, so you can imagine I went into this film with pretty high expectations. Mortal, unfortunately, veers away from those expectations, delivering a surprisingly dull film despite the potential of its premise. I saw the writing on the wall when the first ever image I saw in the film was the definition of the word mortal, which is “a human being”, and I really failed to understand why this was a necessary thing to tell us.

In an interview, Øvredal describes the film as anti-Marvel version of Thor, basically resisting the larger-than-life portrayal of these mythological figures by Marvel. Thus, Mortal is Øvredal’s attempt at reclaiming these myths, by grounding the story in a “very Norwegian world”. The visuals do a good job at selling this desire, where we are given extensive forays into the forested areas of the space, as well as Nat Wolff’s Eric Bergman (who is Norwegian-American) being surrounded by individuals speaking Norwegian. However, this affects the film tonally, with Wolff’s acting and American accent held in contrast to everyone else’s.

As we follow Eric, we can see there’s something not quite right with him, with extensive burns on his body, constantly in conflict with something within him. We get a glimpse into what this ‘something’ is when Eric gets into an altercation with a young man, who suffers consequences from coming into contact with Bergman. This is a motif that continues throughout the film; Eric has good intentions, but no one is safe with him. While I respect Øvredal’s decision to create a more intimate film, and not to let Marvel have carte blanche on these Norse myths, the film fails to build anything interesting about these characters. Wolff’s Eric is a void, all we know is that he doesn’t want to hurt anyone, and strives to be a good person, but it’s hard to relate to him when the people he does manage to save need saving mainly because of his actions.

It is worse for Iken Akerlie’s Christine, who is the only person Eric trusts, and as the film progresses she becomes his romantic interest but fails to develop beyond her paper-thin characterisation. There is no chemistry between the characters, and it just isn’t believable that Christine would continuously risk her life to protect him. Priyanka Bose’s Hathaway finds herself saddled with the task of capturing Eric, but just like all the other actors, doesn’t have enough material to deliver anything compelling.

The film feels very cold and detached, the storytelling repetitive and predictable, making the whole experience a rather dull affair. It meanders for the most part, coming to snap attention towards the end as they decide to understand the genesis of all this. The movie’s saving grace is its conclusion, which is contrary to the Marvel formula, and leaves things ambiguous. The ending definitely paves the way for a sequel, but just like the beginning of the film, I’m not sure if one is necessary.

Review screener provided.

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André Øvredal's desire to ground his narrative in Norwegian culture and setting is admirable, but the film fails to deliver anything compelling or satisfying.