Saturday, December 5, 2009

Blogorium Review: Outlander

Outlander is a good but not great movie about Vikings fighting Aliens. Jim Caviezel plays Kainan, a humanoid alien who crash lands on Earth in the 8th century, and finds himself hunting a "dragon" with the help of Rothgar (John Hurt)'s Viking... uh, tribe? I'm sorry, but I'm not sure what you call a group of Vikings. The "dragon" is actually a Moorwen, which is an alien that uses glowing red light to capture its prey and eats pretty much anything, including a whale. Since Kainan looses his gun, he has to rely on alien smarts to kill the Moorwen, plus win over the King's daughter and broker peace between warring tribes.

Like I said; it's not a bad movie, but I don't necessarily agree with the positive internet consensus. The bar is pretty low on Vikings vs "_____" movies in the wake of Pathfinder, but just because Outlander doesn't totally drop the ball doesn't mean it's a "lost gem". The film is riddled with logical errors and forced character choices that happen only because the co-writer / director need the movie to end a certain way.

For example, the well in the middle of Rothgar's village somehow links up both to a nearby lake and to an underground volcano, which means one of two things:

1. Kainan and his Viking team either went so far underground that they split the difference between the crust and mantle under Norway, or

2. The water is so cold that it somehow cannot instantly vaporize despite its proximity to flowing lava.

There are a bunch of other logical gaffes, including a burning monster and someone who should be pulling a Harvey Dent (based on being covered with oil and being in an explosion / fighting a monster that's on FIRE), and how they could possibly forge Kainan's ship hull into weapons if it's more powerful than the steel they use to hammer it, but I digress. I want to talk about one other curious aspect of Outlander.

If you hadn't noticed from the fact there's a King Rothgar and a strange hero who kills a Monster, its mother, and comes from a distant land, there's a distinctly Beowulf-ian vibe to Outlander. It's never explicitly addressed, so I'll give some credit to Howard McCain and Dirk Blackman for letting it sneak in to the movie, but they never really go anywhere with it either.

The leads are pretty good, but supporting characters range from passable to downright terrible, and that's before we get to their awful wigs and fake looking beards. John Hurt is fine as Rothgar; he gets to be king-ly and doesn't really have a lot to do but worry about causing war between his tribe and Gunnar's. As Gunnar, Ron Perlman alternates between being Ron Perlman and a Will Ferrel impersonation of Ron Perlman with a goofy beard.

Honestly, Perlman is barely in the movie and *SPOILER* gets a cheap death from the Moorwen during the village siege. It's almost insulting to bring him in for that. Sophia Myles (Underworld, Doctor Who) holds her own as Freya, but to be honest her best scenes involve being stuck in a room full of corpses. Rob Zombie could learn a thing or two from Outlander, because there might actually be 1,000 corpses in the Moorwen cave.

As to the other guys, Jack Huston (Shrooms) is basically all right, as are the guys who play Boromir and Unferth. Honestly, I didn't notice there was a character named Unferth, but it really does continue the whole "Beowulf" riff, doesn't it? The main Viking guys (or the ones you see more than two times before they die) are all pretty good, if unmemorable.

Overall, I'd say that I enjoyed watching Outlander, although I'm in no hurry to see it again, and I guess I can understand why the brothers Weinstein had no idea what to do with the movie. I can't really see Outlander being a huge hit theatrically, and to be honest, it took me the better part of three months to decide to finally watch it.

I realize this review sounds like a pan, but there's some measure of fun to be had with Outlander. The premise is handled well enough, and the effects shots are sometimes good and sometimes cheesy, but the Moorwen design is cool and Kainan's back story helps flesh things out a bit. If you're looking for a pleasant diversion, of a Science Fiction / Fantasy hybrid movie, or if you just like Vikings, Outlander is probably worth checking out.

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