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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hollywood Product: Outlander

click to enlarge MIST-TAKEN IDENTITY: James Caviezel as Kainan
  • MIST-TAKEN IDENTITY: James Caviezel as Kainan

GENRE: Vikings vs. aliens!

THE PITCH: Like I said, Vikings vs. aliens. Kainan (Jim Caviezel of The Passion of the Christ), a human from another planet, crashes his spaceship in Norway circa the Iron Age, and must enlist the suspicious mead swillers against a glowing, whip-tailed beastie called a Morwen.

MONEY SHOTS: The opening shot of Kainan’s spacecraft hurtling down to Earth. Kainan and alpha male Wulfric (Jack Huston) race atop upraised shields in the Viking equivalent of a “Survivor” challenge. Great monster battles, along with details like blood dripping on the tip of a spear, or the Morwen snuffing out a torch under its claw. An interplanetary flashback reveals personal stakes for the Kainan/Morwen rivalry.

BEST LINE: “I’m hunting a dragon,” Kainan tells his hostile captors when they ask why he’s in their territory. (The explanation doesn’t go over well.)

BEST WORD: Kainan uses his computer to download the Norse language into his brain, causing him to scream, vomit and utter the film’s first comprehensible word, “Fuck.”

WORST LINE: “This is the work of Lucifer!” declares a jittery Christian monk whom the Vikings seem to tolerate, even though they worship Odin.

BODY COUNT: Guys get shot with arrows one minute and eaten alive the next, providing more than enough fatalities for the last act’s big pile o' parts ’n’ bodies. Memorable violence includes Princess Freya (Sophia Myles) putting a spear through a marauder’s neck; a rival chieftan (Hellboy’s Ron Perlman) crushing a head between two big-ass hammers; and the Morwen decapitating a Viking with its tail. Bonus: bear attack!

FASHION STATEMENT: In a film full of long scraggly beards — King Rothgar (John Hurt) even has beard pigtails — Huston’s perfectly trimmed Skeet Ulrich facial hair looks out of place. During sword practice, Freya shows off a leather halter top and exposed midriff. Kainan’s spaceman outfit looks like a cast-off from The Chronicles of Riddick, while his fur vest seems more Carnaby Street. BTW, what kind of Viking movie doesn’t have those horned helmets?

POP PRECEDENTS: Outlander borrows a lot from the Alien, Predator and Alien vs. Predator movies. It also harks back to the original epic poem Beowulf by including a mead hall, an underwater cave and the name Rothgar. But why is one Viking is named after Boromir from Lord of the Rings?

THE BOTTOM LINE: Director Howard McCain deserves his own Hollywood action franchise for helming a film that’s just silly enough to be fun, while taking it just seriously enough to be exciting and kinda cool. Remember in Talladega Nights when Will Ferrell said that Highlander won the Oscar for "Best Movie Ever Made?” Outlander could steal that title. There can be only one.

Outlander 3 stars Directed by Howard McCain. Stars Jim Caviezel, Sophia Myles. Rated R. Opens Fri., Jan. 23. At area theaters.

(Photo courtesy the Weinstein Company)

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