James Caviezel, John Hurt, Ron Perlman, Sophia Myles
2009, 115 Minutes, Directed by: Howard McCain
we last left the state of the Vikings on film, it was in the hands of
Pathfinder, a wretched motion picture that drained all the fun out of
the brutal, mead-swilling culture.
Outlander is a chance to redeem
the legacy of the Vikings on the big screen, taking known quantities such as
swords, machismo, and lush forest locations and adding what was always
missing from the bearded tales of yore: bloodthirsty monsters from outer
When his spaceship crashes down to Earth, circa 709 A.D.,
alien Kainan (Jim Caviezel) is left with little resources and a quest to
destroy the beast that was contained onboard. Observing a familiar pattern
of destruction in the immediate area, Kainan finds himself captured by a
tribe of Vikings who want to know just what caused such hostility.
himself to King Rothgar (John Hurt) and his daughter Freya (Sophie Myles),
Kainan hopes to lead the charge to capture the infamous Moorwen, the
dragon-like monster that stalks the land hunting for human prey. Teaming up
with a rival clan, led by Gunnar (Ron Perlman), Kainan and Prince Wulfric
(Jack Huston) head out to slaughter the menace, only to find the primitive
weapons of the era are no match for this ferocious, bioluminescent beast.
Outlander is one amusing motion picture, and it
helps that the filmmaking remains refreshingly alert throughout. Director
Howard McCain deftly mixes cues from Viking iconography and sci-fi staples
to indulge in a straight-up monster movie, a swift B-picture that knows its
audience and endeavours to offer fans a full plate of monster mayhem,
bloodletting, and sword-happy heroics.
"Filled with moisture, smoke, and filthy men . . ."
It's something of a miracle that Outlander doesn't
resemble a Sci-Fi Original, with credit going to McCain and his crew for
their efforts to make the film feel lived in, and not just shot haphazardly
in a generic Canadian backyard. Filling the frame with moisture, smoke, and
filthy men, Outlander creates the feel of a graphic novel, presenting
a heightened naturalistic backdrop for these fantastical events.
adventure story at heart, McCain takes the action into forests, caves, and
underwater, constantly trying to drum up a sense of excitement and
otherworldly threat while embracing the gruff Viking lifestyle that
typically involves serious beard growing, drinking mead from the carcasses
of dead animals, and games of balance on wobbly combat shields. Unlike many
sci-fi tweaked tales, Outlander feels complete and ready for war,
with McCain creating a world to play with, not just a genre to exploit for
The Moorwen sequences are the focal point of Outlander,
though it comes as somewhat of a disappointment to find the creature molded
from strictly CG parts and labor. While an arrestingly designed beast, the
cinematography and editing prefer to keep the monster at a safe visual
distance (a mid-movie bear attack is also impossible to focus in on), which
can be a frustrating prospect once the third act swings around.
is saved by the screenplay, which carefully proposes that the Moorwen might
not be the bone-munching demons their reputation suggests. It's a tweak on
the formula that keeps Outlander fresh enough to stay invested in the
Outlander is a fluid genre exercise that satisfies
cravings for action and Norse mythology in one fell swoop. It's a
full-bodied adventure movie that's responsive and reverential to the needs
of sci-fi escapism. Vikings? Aliens? Swords crafted from space steel? Ron
Perlman as a tattooed, hammer-wielding warlord? This is an easy film to
- Brian Orndorf