Mortal is director André Øvredal’s first foray into a feature that isn’t solely horror. Although he brings over elements of the genre into this fantasy adventure, it definitely feels like Mortal is a test, for himself, to see if he can branch off to other types of film.
For the most part, the film works. Nat Wolff takes on the lead role – he plays Eric, a Norwegian American who has come to Norway to find his roots and subsequently discovers he has the abilities of the god, Thor. The story picks up a while after his first misadventure with those powers – the damage he has left behind has caused him to go into hiding.
A tragic encounter with a young man brings Eric back into the spotlight and soon, he is hunted by police and government forces who want to take him down.
Helps come in the form of Iben Akerlie’s Christine, who realises the danger Eric is in. As he is unable to control his thunderous and lethal abilities, the worst place for him to be is in custody. What follows is essentially a chase movie across the stunning Norwegian landscape.
Øvredal plays the setting extraordinarily well. He has mentioned how underrepresented Norway is in cinema and does a great job of showing it off on film, here. One particular sequence sees Eric cornered on a bridge – the surrounding landscape is awe inspiring and the events on the bridge echo the setting, too. It really is a beautiful moment.
However, it is also probably the only action sequence in the whole film. There’s a lot of tension, but it’s rare for Øvredal to throw us something exciting. Instead, he prefers to dwell in isolation – perhaps, intentionally, to help us empathise more with Eric, who has become a hermit.
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Wolff is good, although he isn’t given too much to do. And the supporting cast unfortunately aren’t strong enough to heighten his subtle, ‘silent hero’ performance.
The biggest thing in the film that will truly split audiences, is the end. Without going into detail, it effectively feels like Øvredal pitched Mortal as an origin story – but an origin story that has no continuation. When the credits roll, and they roll almost jarringly, it feels like the film had barely gotten started. The only thing is, based on how it ends, there doesn’t seem like there’s anymore story left to tell.
It’s another weak link in a film with some promise.
Overall, Mortal is fine. It will satisfy some people’s lust for superhero flicks this summer and serves as an alternate take on the Thor mythology, that has recently become so mainstream. Øvredal set himself a challenge to break free of the horror mould and, it’s a nice attempt, but it seems he would be much more successful in doing so with a meatier story.
A synopsis reads:
Based on ancient Norse Mythology, a young boy must discover the origins of his extraordinary powers before he is captured by authorities hell-bent on condemning him for an accidental murder. A breath-taking and thrilling origins adventure story about one boy’s journey to uncover who, or what, he really is.
Mortal is available to on Digital HD August 3rd and DVD August 24th, in the UK. It stars Nat Wolff, Iben Akerlie and Priyanka Bose.