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What? They Finally Released PATHFINDER?

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.
Readers Talkback
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  • April 13, 2007, 5:02 p.m. CST

    Optimus Prime has lips... strange..

    by modlight I'm hugely excited for this, but I don't like that shot.

  • April 13, 2007, 5:02 p.m. CST


    by fluffybunnywhiskers


  • April 13, 2007, 5:07 p.m. CST

    Does Clancy Brown do anything in this...

    by waylayer

    nearly as detestably great as the church scene in Highlander?

  • April 13, 2007, 5:08 p.m. CST

    As long as Karl Urban sings his "lonesome Viking song"

    by Mullah Omar

    ...I'm there. And did Nicole make a cameo?

  • April 13, 2007, 5:12 p.m. CST


    by Behemoth

    ...the movie SUCKS beyond belief. And I am someone who WANTED so badly for this to work. <p>Vikings and Indians AND the return of Clancy Brown as a sword-wielding badass. HOW CAN YOU SCREW SUCH AN AMAZING SETUP UP SO HORRIBLY??!!! <p>Honestly, the movie was laughable. The acting was horrific, the directing horrificer. And the script ... oh, man, the script...not since "Riding the Bus With My Sister" has a movie been so unintentionally funny. I'd have laughed had I not been so disappointed. <p>I wanted SO MUCH to find something good in this. The only thing I found were a few chill-inducing moments when Clancy mutha-effin' Brown appeared in full Viking regalia looking as evil and nasty as ever. But even the final battle was atrocious, quick and totally unsatisfying. They couldn't even give us THAT. <p>And please, do NOT put this movie in the same celestial sphere as "13th Warrior," which was a great, fun, satisfying film. This is far, far, FAR from any of those things.

  • April 13, 2007, 5:13 p.m. CST

    I'll see it.

    by antmanx68

    Clancy Brown as the evil viking leader? I'm in.

  • April 13, 2007, 5:22 p.m. CST


    by Err

    seriously, this is a shitty film.

  • April 13, 2007, 5:25 p.m. CST

    You'll regret it, Antmanx68...

    by Behemoth me...I felt the same I've come home with nothing but regret, a smaller bank account, and soiled pantaloons.

  • April 13, 2007, 5:38 p.m. CST


    by jae683

    Why is it every hack director thinks they can remake classics better? This movie is yet another movie of a Danish movie from 1987. (sigh)

  • April 13, 2007, 5:42 p.m. CST

    Clancy Brown

    by warghost

    Isn't Clancy Brown in the new Hungry Man microwave dinner commercial?

  • April 13, 2007, 5:43 p.m. CST

    well, the poster was cool

    by Calico Pete

    If the movie succeeded in capitalizing on the promise of the poster -- this Frazetta-like clash of two mythologies -- it woulda been epic and beautiful. There's just something about that poster...

  • April 13, 2007, 5:47 p.m. CST

    Empire magazine

    by emeraldboy

    Sluaghtered this movie.

  • April 13, 2007, 7:43 p.m. CST


    by LittleDudes

  • April 13, 2007, 7:43 p.m. CST

    by LittleDudes

  • April 13, 2007, 11:17 p.m. CST


    by dundundles


  • April 14, 2007, 12:11 a.m. CST

    The original Pathfinder(1987) is a billion times better

    by Tarl_Cabot

    Don't bother with this one.

  • April 14, 2007, 12:12 a.m. CST

    The original Pathfinder(1987) is a billion times better

    by Tarl_Cabot

    Don't bother with this one.

  • April 14, 2007, 2:23 a.m. CST

    Variety's review of "Pathfinder"

    by Peter Tarnopol

  • April 14, 2007, 2:28 a.m. CST

    I saw it yesterday...

    by disfigurehead

    Or at least half of it. Total crap. I walked out. It only wished it could be as bad ass as 300. Puke colored lenses, unwatchable. And I think it was only 90 minutes. I couldn't last that long.

  • April 14, 2007, 4:11 a.m. CST

    jae1683, the original was a Norwegian movie

    by feckdrinkarse

    It was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film too, I think.

  • April 14, 2007, 6:46 a.m. CST

    but wasnt the 13th warrior

    by emeraldboy

    that boring stinkfest with Bandereas.

  • April 14, 2007, 9:27 a.m. CST

    300 'Empty thrills', what oxymoronic drivel Moriarty

    by KillaKane

    You want 'textural depth' go and read Pressfield's Gates of Fire, or better yet try and wrap your head around the fact that the Sparton ethos was 'deeds not words'.

  • April 14, 2007, 12:11 p.m. CST

    a painful viewing

    by coppercrow

    i came here looking for a review before i went, but nothing was up yet, so i took a chance. it was so painful to sit through that waste of film. the effects were out of a made for sci-fi channel movie. the directing was bad even for a cable movie. if only i was warned... (well, i was i guess, seeing that Karl Urban was starring).

  • April 14, 2007, 1:19 p.m. CST

    NISPEL-everybody dance now!

    by bunkyboo

    Good concepts,, disappointing execution. Made his name in music vids in the 90's, RUINED his first chance at a feature with his ridiculous arrogance toward the studio execs and his crew manifesto (still available for viewing online, if you want to see a hilarious, almost career killing rant). He's not a gifted filmmaker, just a guy with ideas and the energy to get things done. Ich lieber dich, mein herr!

  • April 14, 2007, 2:30 p.m. CST


    by YO MOM'S GOAT

    When people use that expression, Mori, it's a baseball reference. As in 0 hits for 2 at-bats. That's the numeral zero.<p> What the flip is an "oh" that you could have in two attempts at anything? What a skeez.

  • April 14, 2007, 3:21 p.m. CST

    An avalanche of cheese

    by OtisSpofford

    This movie is actually fun if you see it for either mindless entertainment or fodder for your own MST3K fest... It must be one of the only viking movies in the history of film where we never see the Vikings tearing into haunches of beef while hoisting huge tankards of mead... And slogging 3,000 miles inland with several hundred pounds of armor, furs and fetishistic accoutrements - with no supplies, it would seem... And no use of the indigenous population as slaves. However, the photography is nice, although I grow weary of these washed-out palletes of grays or earth tones... Oh well, perhaps the sequel, Pathfinder II: Path of the Finder will be better.

  • April 14, 2007, 9:14 p.m. CST

    Vikings travel thousands of

    by Tito Trinidad

    Vikings travel thousands of miles to the New World with no ill effects and the only way the natives were able to repel them was to have their own Viking? Really? Are you serious? THis is just stupid.

  • April 15, 2007, 2:23 p.m. CST

    This is one I've gotta see.

    by TheNorthlander

    They even have "vikings" with horns on their helmets! Vikings NEVER had horns on their helmets, that's ridiculous. Wanna see a realistic badass viking movie, watch Hrafninn flýgur from 1984. THAT'S a viking movie - this looks more like popcorn. Love the Boris Valejo painting though.