Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. I saw this film many, many months ago. And although there’s very little I liked about it, I never could quite work up the head of steam to write a review. It’s just a non-movie, and I think that can be dumped firmly on the shoulders of the nigh-incompetent Marcus Nispel. He’s oh-for-two in my book now, and I really don’t understand why anyone would trust him to make a narrative film at this point. PATHFINDER might have worked on the page at one point, and there are some interesting ideas in the film, but the combination of Nispel’s truly inert “action” filmmaking and Karl Urban’s charisma-free lead adds up to a film that I can’t imagine recommending to anyone. It certainly doesn’t help that they’re coming out after 300, a film that isn’t exactly the height of textual depth itself, but that at least manages to deliver its empty thrills with high style. I think that’s about all the energy I can muster to ever write about this one, but let’s look at a reader review we got in yesterday to see what he thought:
It could've been worse. Let's face it, being delayed for this long (it was originally slated to open, what, last July?) never really helps a movie. I went into this with zero expectations, and was pleasantly surprised. Not that I'll see it 6 times or anything, but I could stand to see it again. In case anybody forgot the plot, this is that Viking movie where a young Norse child gets abandoned in Novia Scotia and is taken in by a Native American tribe (the "People of the Dawn"). Eventually he has to face another boatload of Vikings, and has to choose between the people that sired him and the people that raised him. It's a very basic premise, and for the most part, it works. Now, I loves me some ancient world epics, and I also loves me some cheesy fantasy films. This one never seems to decide which it wants to be - the cheesy plot crawl that follows the most abrupt title sequence I've ever seen introduces the idea that 600 years before Columbus landed, a group of European raiders attempted to settle North America. "They were stopped. What follows is the legend." So... it's a legend, and it's based on some kind of historical fact. While it bothers me that it can't commit, it soon becomes immaterial. The first test of any movie of this sort for me is the Conan test. I am of the opinion that the opening quarter-hour of John Milius' CONAN THE BARBARIAN is simply the finest example of ancient world and/or fantasy filmmaking ever, using a perfectly pared-down audio-visual narrative style and one of the greatest film scores ever. If the first battle in a movie can't hold its own against CONAN, then chances are I'm going to shit all over it. GLADIATOR passed - but just barely. LORD OF THE RINGS passed. PATHFINDER? It fails, but only because of some sloppy editing and an uninspired score by Johnathan Elias. After about 15 minutes of origin and intro, a band of Vikings arrives to subjugate or slaughter the natives prior to settling down, and wipes out our hero's village. It's bloody, it's savage, it's almost exciting... but poorly cut and insipidly scored. Almost, guys, almost. What kept me going was the cinematography. Director Marcus Nispel (understandably despised for remaking TEXAS CHAINSAW - though for the record I thought he did a fair job) isn't exactly what I'd call a craftsman, but at least he's smart enough to know one when he sees one. Daniel Pearl - veteran of both versions of TEXAS - paints America of the first millenium in pale hues, swirling mist, and dense vegetation, making it look like a cross between Emmanuel Lubezki's THE NEW WORLD and Skull Island. He packs so much texture and detail into the frame it's almost painfully attractive. It helps the movie immeasurably - as does the location shooting. As the hero Ghost, Karl Urban is, well, better than I would have expected. I loved him as Eomer, and have hated him in every other role I've seen him in since. Here he gets precious little dialogue, and turns in a pretty impressive physical performance. Instead of "acting," he merely grunts, emotes a little, and hurls himself toward the nearest Viking. It works; this movie's all about keeping it simple. About halfway in, as Ghost attempts to lure the Vikings away from the next village, the movie picks up some momentum, and suddenly becomes a much better movie. Aided by the obligatory female love interest (the attractive - and awesomely named - Moon Bloodgood) and a village idiot character who simply doesn't know any better, Ghost sets about trying to lead the Vikings away from the fleeing villagers while thinning their ranks as best he can. This chunk of the movie plays like a combination of FIRST BLOOD and the last act of PREDATOR, and while it's certainly a bit derivative, it's also pretty badass. There are several dozen Vikings, each 7 feet tall, covered in spikes, and dripping gore, being picked off by a rather unlikely trio. It was around this point that the movie I had been prepared to shit on became a movie I was grudgingly starting to like. I won't spoil the rest of it, but it takes some familiar paths, and throws a few little twists into the mix, while becoming (almost by accident, one feels) compulsively watchable. Naturally, it's all going to come down to Ghost vs. the Viking leader... who happens to be Clancy Fucking Brown. C'mon, what kind of geek doesn't want to see Eomer throw down with the Kurgan? This isn't a great movie, or even a good one, but it's satisfying on its own level of mediocrity. If you're jonesin' for some epic carnage and have already seen 300 too many times (I've seen it in digital, 35mm, and Imax already), this is a welcome change of pace. As quasi-historical epics go, it falls somewhere around THE 13TH WARRIOR, another long-delayed, better than average (but still far beneath the likes of CONAN) barbarian slasher. It's gorgeously shot, excessively violent, and at times, actually thrilling. If that's all you're asking for, give it a whirl, you won't feel cheated. If you guys end up using this, call me Adrian Tripod.