There are certain expectations from a superhero movie. Epic battles, great special effects, and large set pieces are a must. The hero must be flawed, but not so much so they seem like a regular person. They are clearly better than the average person on the street. Mortal is a superhero movie with a different idea. It is an intimate (as much as a movie about a world famous cod can be) story that pauses for the occasional action scene. But is that a good thing?
Director Andre Ovredal seems like the perfect director for a movie about a Norse god. His mockumentary Trollhunter is a found footage classic that does a great job of implementing Norwegian culture. It also showed he can tell a fantastic story. While Ovredal has a knack for shooting picturesque landscapes, the plot is too predictable to stand out.
Eric is an American with Norwegian ancestry. Mortal starts with him alone in the woods of Norway. It is not long before it is apparent there is something different about Eric. A difference that will be familiar to many. Mortal is a surprisingly quiet film at times. There is little dialogue the first ten minutes. Once people do begin to speak more, it is in almost hushed tones. It brings a different tone to a superhero movie-tension.
This feeling lasts throughout the movie. The story is a deconstruction of everyone’s favorite hammer wielding Avenger from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Mortal plays out like a what if the MCU decided to go DC Extended Universe dark. It goes about as well as it sounds. Things move very quickly. The psychiatrist brought in to examine Eric figures out the source of his power within minutes of meeting him. Yet, the movie still seems to move at a methodical pace. Despite the suspense that lingers around Mortal’s edges, it lacks a sense of urgency.
Mortal does ask an interesting question the MCU has yet to touch on. If a Norse god truly does exist, what does it mean for all the other religions of the world? It is in these inspired moments the movie truly shines. It is almost impossible to discuss the movie without mentioning its ending. Today’s audiences are conditioned for the ending of each superhero movie to be a beginning for something else. Mortal has a jarring ending that will divide audiences. It is certainly different from what is normally seen, but it will also further frustrate some.
Mortal seems like an interesting take on one of cinema’s most iconic characters. It is a dark origin story that will catch audiences off guard. Director Andre Ovredal has a deft hand when showcasing beautiful landscapes. The movie also touches on some themes not normally seen in these types of films. The story will find an audience but will also leave them divided.
Mortal comes to select theaters and is available on demand and digital November 6.
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