Thursday, January 29, 2009

Outlander (2009)

Spoilers ahead, folks.

Outlander is yet another of those genre films to come out well under the Hollywood radar in recent years, despite performances from James Caviezel and John Hurt. In this case, it's probably a good thing, as the film fails to live up to anything aside from its crude existence as a composite of other, far better films. Essentially, take Beowulf and The 13th Warrior, soap them up in some Predator and Enemy Mine, and then dry them off with a Lord of the Rings towel. Voila, you have Outlander.

It's a sad thing, too, because a movie with this very same plot could have turned out well if hadn't been content with its mediocrity. Kainen is a man from a distant world spanning civilization who has crashed on Earth, in Norway, 8th century. He conveniently is discovered by the handsome Wulfric (played by Jack Huston), and brought to the largest local settlement, presided over by Rothgar (John Hurt). Of course, Rothgar's beautiful daughter Freya (Sophia Myles), 10x more beautiful than any of the other Viking women around her, has eyes for the Outlander immediately! They slowly fall in love throughout the film. Oh for the love of Christ.

But all is not well...because...get this, SOMETHING ELSE FOLLOWED KAINEN HERE! Alien, Predator, Enemy know the score. One of the last remnants of a race Kainen's people wiped out to colonize a new homeworld. The tragedy here is that his people didn't realize the creatures (the Moorwen) were vengeful and somewhat intelligent. So, one has followed Kainen to this planet, and it begins destroying everything in sight, displaying varying levels of intelligence throughout the film. For most of the run time, it uses stealth to snare its foes, easily picking them off. But for some inane reason, there is the inevitable 'showdown' scene, where the creature suddenly decided it will face the village head on (the 'trap' sequence). is the Moorwen! Now, this picture might not show it, but the creature actually looks pretty cool, this is one of the highlights of the film. It's similar to a large displacer beast (D&D fans rejoice), complete with pseudopods that it can whip around to snare and decapitate the unwary. It also uses luminescence to enthrall and trap its foes. Kind of cool, honestly. Of course, this Moorwen isn't alone. There is the inevitable BABY MOORWEN OF DEATH! Graarrrr! What the fuck. Yes, for real.

The cinematography is decent, much like other films of this sort to come out in recent years (action epics like Apocalypto, BC, and Pathfinder). The score is average, and there are no memorable themes here. It's not a complete disgrace to Norse culture but it cheapens it to cliches, and you lose a lot of that raw thrill. Had the film been shot in Old Norse (it's only spoken a few times, as they take the 'translator' implant sci-fi cliche) it would have greatly improved the mood. The performances are all pretty dull, Caviezel and Hurt try their best, as does Ron Perlman in his role as the hammer-slinging chieftain/antagonist Gunnar, but they have so little to work with. The action is average at best, there is some gore involved but not a lot in the way of creative death. Decapitations, guys getting their chests ripped out, basically the same shit you've seen in any movie like this. There is a pretty tragic and touching flashback in which Kainen's people are purging the Moorwens from their world in a massive firestorm. You can really feel sorry for these creatures. It's the best scene in the movie.

The film was directed by the little-known Howard McCain, who also wrote it. Unfortunately, he's also writing a new Conan feature. He's going to have to do a lot better than this, or you can consider that childhood fondness raped into the dirt.

The bottom line is the movie was an uninteresting pastiche of other plots and better movies that had come out before. It's just as mediocre as the recent Pathfinder, another film that failed to give us thrilling Viking action, or the dull animated Beowulf feature. You're better off watching The 13th Warrior any day of the week. Actually, how about manning the fuck up and tracking down a copy of 1958's The Vikings, starring Kirk Douglas.

You can thank me later.

Verdict: Fail (4/10)


frank austin said...

Oh man! I could not disagree with the score on this more. I have to run to work, but I at least have to say that this movie is highly enjoyable as long as you're not expecting much.

frank austin said...

All right. I can't really disagree with any of the points in the review, but I can say that I think this movie is a lot more fun than you're giving it credit for. Having read a few previews over at io9, I wasn't really expecting much. is a bit more in line with what I thought about it, excluding the supposed originality of the story.

My favorite bit of that review:

"The point is that if you want a great example of the alien smackdown genre, Outlander will please the hell out of you. It's a fresh, original take on a timeworn topic that's been ruined by many giant Hollywood movies with budgets four times bigger than Outlander's. And did I mention the giant sword? Made out of a spaceship? Holy crap I love this movie."

They have some other decent Outlander articles there worth checking out if you think you might be interested in it. I wouldn't dare to rate this movie higher than a 6 or a 6.5, but I think it's pretty fun for what it is.

autothrall said...

What credit does this deserve? It sucked. It's only marginally better than a shitty Sci Fi Channel 'original' sci-fi flick.

That's a pretty funny review, because it's:

1. Not fresh.
2. Not original.
3. Another predictable Hollywood movie, regardless of its budget. I predicted the entire fucking movie within 5 minutes...
4. A sword made out of spaceship (let's not blow this out of proportion, it's just used because the steel is harder than what the Vikings had) does not a good movie make.

29% aggregate score at Rotten Tomatoes, even lower than my review, so thankfully the world hasn't all gone insane :P

autothrall said...

I'm sorry, 26%.

frank austin said...

Like I said, I don't really disagree with any of that. I just think that the movie's fun to watch because of how ridiculous it is. I went into it expecting camp, I got what I was expecting, and I was entertained. It's utterly unthinkable to rate this movie very highly, but I think some people will enjoy how ridiculous it is.

This is the kind of movie that I was really glad to go see late at night with a couple buddies who all knew how silly it was going to be. We laughed our way through it and had a good time. Certainly not high art, but not the bottom of the barrel either.

autothrall said...

It's not the bottom of the barrel.

But it's the part of the barrel which has already gone flat and stagnant by the time you get to it.