Amazon – Stream It Or Skip It?
At this point, it feels like we’ve seen pretty much every variation on the superhero origin story there is; experiment gone wrong, super soldier injection, journey into a vat of toxic chemicals. That’s not to say that there isn’t room for more, but let’s be honest: superhero fatigue is real. Mortal, now streaming on Amazon, tries to evade this fatigue by painting this story with a glum, broody tone, but it still feels like we’ve seen it all before.
MORTAL: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: When we first meet Eric (Nat Wolff), he seems to be a stranded hiker in the Norwegian wilderness in desperate need of a day at the salon. Trees ignite around him one night, and one of his legs seems to have been charred. He eventually wanders into town, forages for medical supplies, and chops his insane mane of hair. While limping back off to who knows where, a group of teens start harassing him, and Eric warns one not to touch him or he’ll “burn”. The teen ignores him, as teens are wont to do, and he indeed dies. The police are baffled by this, and Eric seems to be, too. It turns out he ventured to Norway, his ancestral country, to unite with his relatives, and he wound up responsible for their deaths as well. And this family has some roots deeeeep in Norse mythology.
An empathetic psychologist named Christine (Iben Akerlie) soon realizes that Eric’s powers are triggered by his emotions, and he doesn’t just have the power to hurt – he has the power to heal, too, and to materialize some seriously intense storms. Like, storms with lots of thunder and lightning. Oh, and yes, Christine is some kind of half-hearted love interest for Eric who believes it is her job to save him (from himself?). Will Eric get a handle of his powers? Who is he really? Will the unspecified U.S. government official on their tails ever reveal her true motives? Is Chris Hemsworth pissed that someone else is trying to steal his… thunder? All this (and more!) is half-answered in Mortal.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: If you’ve seen pretty much any Marvel or DC movie, a lot of the beats in Mortal will feel familiar. This movie is just a little more of a slow burn bummer.
Performance Worth Watching: I really tried to get invested in all of the performances here, but none of them did it for me. They all felt like they lacked the energy required for a story of this scale.
Memorable Dialogue: There is no dialogue in this movie worth writing home about, but I have to admit I guffawed at the film’s opening frame, which includes the dictionary definition of the world “mortal”: “mortal [mawr-tl] n. A human being”. It really sums up just how stupid the film thinks its audience is.
Sex and Skin: None.
Our Take: Mortal‘s opening sequence shows promise; there’s something to be said for a movie that kicks things off with long periods of silence, vague images, and a lot of questions. It piques the interest, creates a little mystery. If only things had continued down that road, rather than the one Mortal winds up taking. I am someone who loves a slow burn. I can appreciate a self-serious bummer of a movie. But unfortunately, Mortal‘s attempts to be both of these things are completely marred by the film’s total lack of energy. I’m not quite sure exactly what it is that went wrong in the process, but if the actors aren’t buying this whole thing, how are we supposed to?
Poor Nat Wolff is given so little to do here his performance ends up feeling like a caricature of a serious actor; every constipated stare and grunt and pained line delivery is just as painful to watch, failing to give us even a semblance of a hero or antihero to root for. Perhaps there might have been some redemption with a high stakes or believable love story in there somewhere, but Wolff’s lack of chemistry – romantic, platonic, or otherwise – with Akerlie is so glaring it’s almost laughable. And how can we root for him to fall for a woman whose backstory is so thin, she doesn’t seem to know who she is? It’s really a shame, because these lackluster performances are not solely the fault of the actors; it’s clearly the product of poor direction.
Had director André Øvredal (Trollhunter, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) taken an old story and truly put a new spin on it, Mortal might have been something worth writing home about. Instead, he presents us with a character we’ve been watching for a decade on big screens far and wide and does little to reinvent or reinvigorate him. By the time it’s revealed what’s really going on, it’s almost impossible not to laugh. It lacks so much self awareness I found myself cringing, hoping that there was going to be some kind of punchline. Mortal is deeply humorless and self-serious, building up to something that feels like letting the air out of an already-sad balloon and creating a fart noise in the process. But hey, at least it ends right when it’s getting started and sets itself up for a sequel, right?
Our Call: SKIP IT. Mortal hits beats too familiar and too bland, culminating in something of a forgettable snooze fest.
Jade Budowski is a freelance writer with a knack for ruining punchlines and harboring dad-aged celebrity crushes. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebudowski.
Watch Mortal on Amazon Prime