Life Through the Lens: Your brain on vengeance or virtue | News, Sports, Jobs

“Even trash can be recycled into something beautiful.”


This is your brain on vengeance: hyperfocused, highly aggressive and resolute beyond recognition. You see the world through a red lens, forcing all things to relate to the transgression and its inescapable damage. You put off that which might lead to advancement. You shield yourself from that which might provide solace. You, instead, inch your way closer and closer toward chaos in the hopes of payback. Once a vengeful act is performed, the malevolent voices momentarily pacified, you will find your “high” short-lived and the emptiness returning.

Your brain on vengeance is one of promised power but fleeting finality.

This is your brain on virtue: others-focused, eagerly giving and goodness beyond greediness. Oxytocin is released and loving connection is established. Euphoric dopamine is released, granting the body a natural “high.” Serotonin is released, reducing feelings of depression, anxiety and even helping with digestion and healing wounds. You put off that which might lead to regression. You shield yourself from that which might rob relief. You, instead, bound your way closer and closer toward authentic joy in the hopes of compassionate cultural contamination. Once a virtuous act is performed, the universal call to unity echoed, you will find yourself chasing the next opportunity to repeat the rush of kindness.

Your brain on virtue is one of profound power and evanescent energy.

Your brain is wired to support kindness and to reward goodness. It is literally to your advantage to be to others’ advantage. People, this is science talking. Not morality. Science.

It is a tale as old as time, one told ad nauseam: boy grows up to avenge his slain father. Throw in an evil-uncle and you’ve got a cliche.

Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard), the budding prince, is transitioning to manhood when he witnesses a play on the throne: his father King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke) is assassinated at the hand of his uncle Fjolnir (Claes Bang). Ain’t that just the way it goes.

Amleth escapes by the skin of his teeth (and the skin of another guy’s nose) and disappears, presumed dead by the now-king. With his father dead, mother captured and land lost, Amleth becomes a member of a roving band of brutally violent Vikings. He excels in this new role because he is dead to emotion and numb to purpose, apart from killing his uncle, that is. Every breath by Ameth is used to pursue revenge. Every methodical step from Amleth is directed toward death.

When news comes of Fjolnir’s location, Amleth jumps at the opportunity. He assumes the role of slave just to get close to the object of his abjection. He finds more than he bargained for, though. Fjolnir has taken as his wife Amleth’s widowed mother (Nicole Kidman) and fathered a child, Gunnar. The world has continued turning for everyone but Ameth. Present circumstances be for adaptation, but revenge is not something easily adaptable. Blood simply calls for blood.

A life determined and dead set on vengeance is one destined for destruction. Can Amleth find satisfaction in anything other than annihilation?

I had high hopes for this movie. Writer/director Robert Eggers has established a wonderful reputation for unflinching authenticity and unmistakable atmosphere. His creations utterly ooze his vision, but The Northman was visionless. It was a stale story told in a stale way. Period. Eggers, for the first time in his young career, attempted to invite the popular masses to his art, but he fumbled in the undertaking. It isn’t avant-garde enough for his true fans or mass appealing enough for the regular Joe Schmo. It is merely 135 minutes of generic stuff happening to a hunky guy. If you are looking for the eerie and unnerving, you won’t find it here.

Alexander Skarsgard does his best with a lifeless script, bulking up and stripping down, but it isn’t enough. The only character that has energy is Willem Dafoe as Heimir the Fool, but his role only lasts 3 minutes. Everyone else seems to only deliver lines.

We do get moments of beauty throughout the film. The cinematography of Jarin Blaschke provides the audience with steady interest and splendor, but it’s pretty hard to take a bad picture in breathtaking Northern Ireland.

This will be a forgettable entry into Egger’s filmography.

REPORT CARD: “The Northman.”

Grade: D+.

Comment: An attempt without clear-concept or creative-commitment.


From moment one on planet Earth, Wolf (Sam Rockwell) has been labeled “the bad guy.” Unlike his seasonal fur, it is not something he can shed, either. It is here to stay. When he enters a room, screams ensue. When he smiles, bared teeth send the recipient running toward yonder hills. No matter the situation, this label refuses to dissipate. If life hands you this concrete label, what do you do? You live up to the label. You become the bad guy who everyone already sees.

Wolf finds solace in his bad actions. He finds comfort in his bad press. He finds company in his bad friends. If you can’t change it, embrace it. Be the best bad guy you can be. When an unstealable object is to be publicly presented, the object that has brought down the careers of so many other bad guys, Wolf cannot resist. This is his calling, for goodness sakes.

As the mission begins, everything is going as planned. That Golden Dolphin is as good as stolen until the unexpected happens. Wolf inadvertently saves an old lady from falling. This uncharacteristic event led to the most bewildering line ever spoken to Wolf: “You are such a good boy.” A strange and foreign feeling washes over Wolf. Is this what it feels like to be good? Maybe, just maybe, being good is its own reward.

Can Wolf reinvent himself? Can every story’s bad guy actually rewrite his own script? Would you trust a wolf?

There has been anticipation for this movie in my house for months now. We have been fans of the books for years. The movie does not disappoint. It uses the source material with grace and style. It breathes life into the characters and the world.

Director Pierre Perifel has a way with mood, the movie feeling cool and easy. It has shades of Ocean’s Eleven and the vibe of sophistication and adventure. Art Director Floriane Marchix has an interesting eye. The animation with its own style and flair. The music by Daniel Pemberton keeps the pace and energy lively.

I love Sam Rockwell and his performance as Wolf is wonderful. His voice has a smoothness to it without losing the pathos and his comedy is always sharp. Marc Maron is effective as Snake. Craig Robinson has great moments as Shark. Zazie Beetz is fun and unexpected as Diane Foxington. Not all the voice acting blows me away, though. Not all embody and bring to life. Some fall rather flat.

It has life. It has direction. It has possibility. It has energy. It has jokes. It has talking animals, for crying out loud.

REPORT CARD: “The Bad Guys.”

Grade: B+.

Comment: A fitting beginning to a (possible) franchise.

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