Review by Sean Boelman
Norwegian filmmaker André Øvredal has made a name for himself because of his enormously ambitious films that cross the boundaries of genre, but his mythology-driven take on the superhero genre, Mortal, won’t go down among his best work. Offering a few interesting ideas executed clumsily, this feels like an attempt to overcompensate for the mistakes made by the more mainstream Thor franchise.
The movie tells the story of a young man who is sent on the run after discovering that he possesses godlike powers rooted in Norse mythology. Øvredal clearly has a tremendous passion and respect for the culture in which the film is based, and this is reflected in the final product, but it doesn’t translate into a story that is particularly entertaining.
Ultimately, this is little more than another story of criminals on the run, albeit with a mythological twist. There are one or two unexpected moments, but for the most part, it follows the familiar beats to a tee. The only moment that will absolutely catch viewers off-guard is the ending, but it ends up feeling rather anticlimactic.
Perhaps more disappointing is that the movie doesn’t explore its very obvious themes with much depth or originality. It is pretty clear that the film is commenting on the dangers of playing God, but perhaps in trying to be subtle, it comes across as completely shallow, treading ground that has already been covered before.
The character development is also frustratingly thin. Although the protagonist’s role as a well-meaning kid struggling to cope with his newfound powers is compelling, if unoriginal, the entirety of the supporting cast is flat. This is particularly the case with the love interest character, who is archetypal to an almost embarrassing extent.
Nat Wolff is solid in his leading role, but everyone else in the cast is lackluster. That said, Wolff’s performance is very one-note, and even though that is how the character is written, some more nuance could have elevated a mediocre part. Iben Akerlie is charming too, but she is given so little to do that it feels like a waste of talent.
As is the case with most of Øvredal’s work, the movie looks very grey, but it works within this context. It’s obvious that he isn’t working with a gigantic, blockbuster-sized budget, yet for what he has, the visual effects are solid. And the production design is strong as well, immersing the viewer in this world halfway between the past and the present.
Mortal sounds much cooler on paper than it is in execution. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s a weak outing for writer-director Øvredal, as it should have been a lot more interesting and less conventional than this.
Mortal hits theaters and VOD on November 6.