MORTAL Review: Norwegian Norse Mythology Tale Sets Up An Intriguingly Dark Take On Thor

Trollhunter director André Øvredal's latest film, Mortal, is now available on VOD, and it sets up a considerably darker origin for the God of Thunder. Find out what we made of it after the jump...

What if Thor was an emotionally unstable American kid with no idea how to control his powers and the potential to harm a lot of innocent people? That's the premise of André Øvredal's (Trollhunter, Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark) latest, which, while a little uneven, does set up an intriguingly dark take on the God of Thunder.

Mortal, aka Torden, begins in the Norwegian wilderness, as a dishevelled and seemingly distraught young man named Eric (Nat Wolff) treks through the forest before making camp. When he wakes from a nightmare to find he's set the surrounding trees on fire, it becomes clear that Eric possesses some incredible, but highly unstable abilities.

After making his way to a small town to clean himself up and dress a nasty-looking wound on his leg, Eric is accosted by a group of teens. He warns their leader not to touch him or he'll "burn," but the boy ignores him and promptly drops dead. Eric is soon picked up by the police, and meets young psychologist Christine (Iben Arkelie), who seems to be able to calm him down and help keep a lid on his destructive powers.

Mortal movie review & film summary (2020) | Roger Ebert

It's a compelling setup, but once Eric and Christine hit the road and attempt to unravel the mystery of the former's god-like powers, the narrative shifts into a far more straightforward sci-fi chase movie. The momentum does pick up, but as we move further away from the measured, cerebral story promised by the first act, we find ourselves in disappointingly familiar territory.

Øvredal's signature black humor is nowhere to be found here, and while that may please those who feel "superhero" movies have become too reliant on comedy, Mortal's sombre tone doesn't always mesh very well with the film's more fantastical elements. There are also a few odd editing choices towards the end which result in some confusing scene connectivity, possibly suggesting that Øvredal was required to make significant cuts to reduce the run-time.

Things do hold together reasonably well for the most part, however, and we are treated to a Hel of a finale. You might see it coming, but that doesn't make it any less impactful, and a sequel could be taken in some very interesting directions if Øvredal does get the chance to make a follow-up.

Mortal is a bit of a mixed bag, but an engaging premise, strong performances and a blistering third act make it well worth a watch. With any luck, a sequel will allow this decidedly darker Thunder God to reach his full potential.

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