Get ready for a twist on the superhero genre with MORTAL on Blu-ray - here's our review!
A young Norwegian psychologist (Iben Akerlie) tries to unravel the mystery behind an American backpacker (Nat Wolff) who seems to have gained superhero-like powers. Also stars Priyanka Bose and Per Frisch. Directed by André Øvredal.
Upon hearing that André Øvredal’s genre-bending fantasy Mortal was coming to Blu-ray, I jumped at the chance to check it out. Horror fans may know Øvredal as the director of 2019’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, produced by Guillermo del Toro. I’m a fan because of his 2010 film Trollhunter, a surprisingly good found-footage movie with a fantasy-twist.
Mortal is an ambitious take on the superhero/fantasy genre – think of it as Brightburn with fewer special effects and more character development. The Norwegian-made film doesn’t have anywhere near the budget of American superhero films, but it honestly didn’t need it. This isn’t the type of CGI spectacle Hollywood seems to put out every few weeks – Mortal is a story of self-discovery.
The film tells the story of Eric, an American backpacking through Norway. He is on the run from local police because he is the suspect in a mysterious fire that killed five people. He’s arrested after another incident in which he supposedly killed a teenager with a single touch.
While under arrest, a young psychiatrist named Christine (Iben Akerlie) is asked to interrogate him, and Eric reveals his secret: he has begun exhibiting supernatural powers. He can manipulate water and electricity, and he can create fire, and he doesn’t know how. After Eric escapes police custody, Christine joins him as he sets out in search of answers, with authorities in pursuit.
If you go into Mortal without knowing much about the plot, you’ll enjoy it more without an pre-conceived notions. The story takes a turn you might not expect, so try to avoid spoilers.
With only one true action set piece, director and co-writer André Øvredal focuses on character development to move the plot along. That creates some pacing issues, and there are some glaring lapses in logic, as one often sees in superhero films. At times, Mortal will remind you of other superhero origin films, but it manages to never feel like a ripoff. The picturesque Norwegian setting gives it a much different look, and the tone is far less frenetic than most big-budget blockbusters, which isn’t a bad thing.
Featuring a mostly Norwegian cast, the film often features subtitles, as some of the dialogue is in their native tongue. I realize some people hate subtitles, but don’t let that turn you off – you’ll miss a good movie if you don’t give it a chance.
Nat Wolff (The Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns) is excellent as Eric, conveying both vulnerability and mystery as he shifts from unwilling victim to something very dangerous. Akerlie turns in an effecting performance as Christine the psychiatrist, as does Per Frisch as a sympathetic sheriff tasked with bringing him in. Both are Norwegian actors who don’t speak English primarily, yet they manage to connect on an emotional level, beyond the subtitles.
As I mentioned before, the film does have a bit of a twist, although Øvredal teases it a bit too early, so you know what’s coming. Regardless, I found Mortal a nice antidote to the onslaught of Marvel and DC movies that all look and feel the same. It isn’t a perfect film, but if you go in without expectations of A-list celebrities and a flood of CGI visual effects, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with this well-done fantasy.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The Blu-ray sports a fairly solid high-definition transfer, and renders the film’s many night scenes surprisingly well. The desaturated colors may provide a bleak palette, but they are consistent, with inky blacks and shadows that show good detail.
The video sometimes drifts between sharp detail to soft imagery in some scenes, but overall, this is an effective transfer.
The audio is an often-robust 5.1 DTS mix, which is particularly effective during the action scenes. Since Eric can control the weather and electricity, the soundtrack makes good use of the channels to give a nice surround effect. Credit Vidar Grande for the great sound design.
The film also features a great score by Marcus Paus, and the sound mix gives it an epic, enveloping presentation.
There’s only a single bonus feature on the Blu-ray, a “making-of” documentary. The film really deserves more behind-the-scenes content, so the lack of bonus features is disappointing.
The special features included on the disc are:
“Dark Hero: The Making of Mortal” documentary. Director André Øvredal and members of the cast discuss the film, and behind-the-scenes footage is included. Running Time: 23:35
Digital Code. A code for a digital copy of the film, redeemable at services including VUDU and FandangoNow, is included. Lionsgate codes are not redeemable or compatible with Movies Anywhere.
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Running Time: 105 minutes
Rating: R (Brief violence)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish