I just watched Pathfinder, the dark and gruesome viking action movie that got panned by critics and ignored by audiences. Amazingly, it is quite entertaining, though still not what one would call quality filmmaking.
The movie, which stars Karl Urban, is about a man who was abandoned by his viking father as a child and has been raised by the Native Americans he refused to kill ever since. He has a love interest, but has never been completely accepted by others in the village - but he is about to prove his worth. The vikings have returned for more raids, and the villagers, with no swords and no armor, have little to defend themselves with. It is up to Ghost (Urban) to save them all and send the vikings back to hell.
Pathfinder is essentially one long action scene that takes pieces from Last of the Mohicans and Rambo, though never matches either by any stretch of the imagination. It's all one big chase sequence, filled with rolling heads, flying blood and plenty of impalements. At first, the vikings come off more like monsters than men, as they loom over the villagers with mammoth frames, vicious weapons and inhuman sounds. As this film progresses, their human form is "revealed", but the men are treated as nothing more than foul-smelling, evil incarnations of men who want to kill, rape and pillage and nothing else - it's not exactly a deep movie, but sometimes it's nice to watch a film where the villains are just plain bad.
Urban does a decent enough job, especially considering he only has to say about ten lines in the whole film. The dialogue is minimalistic throughout, and that's a good thing because when the characters do talk, it's usually not very good. The movie is all about action and writer Laeta Kalogridis knew this - although a little more effort would have been nice. The real star of the film is director Marcus Nispel, who on the one hand shouldn't be congratulated for making a forgettable film, but who on the other should be given props for making a forgettable film that is both entertaining and visually appealing. While the computer graphics aren't very good at all, the grayed-out visuals give the film a very depressing and disturbing atmosphere. It's not exactly 300, but there is a similar style to the action.
Pathfinder succumbs to some pretty lame Native American stereotypes at times and overall is a pretty dumb movie, but it's visually intriguing and full of entertaining, bloody violence. Those who like mindless action movies will find some enjoyment here, though this one will end up in the bargain bin soon enough.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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