17 August 2009

Movie Review: Outlander


2008, 115mins, R
Director: Howard McCain
Writer (s): Dirk Blackman, Howard McCain
Cast includes: Jim Caviezel, Jack Huston, Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Sophia Myles
Release Date: 23rd January 2009

Vikings have been notoriously underserved on the big screen in recent years, the last time a group of ale swilling and axe wielding pillagers featured in a cinema near you was 2007 – the film- “Pathfinder” a depressingly mediocre and unenthused bout of Nordic carnage. Now we’re granted “Outlander” which at least adds space-age back-story and alien dragons to the mix, yet it stills feels that given the periods potential audiences are still being sold a little short. I enjoyed large portions of this effort but by the end it had grown tiresome and the talented cast aren’t really giving it their all in underwritten warrior parts.

After crash-landing in Norway during the year 709 A.D, Kainan (James Caviezel) finds that the deadly cargo he was transporting has been lost. His space craft is destroyed and thus taking what weapons he can salvage he begins to track the terrifying Dragon like Moorwen, following its trail of destruction across the land. However after stumbling upon a village that the alien has desecrated, Kainan is captured via a hunting party led by Wulfric (Jack Huston). They blame him for the Moorwen’s damage and the lives it has claimed, but later the dragon shows itself and attacks the stronghold led by Rothgar (John Hurt). Together the Vikings decide that with the outlander Kainan they will hunt and destroy the Moorwen, taking revenge on the beast for the evil deeds it has committed.

Sounds like a pretty barmy time, huh? Well “Outlander” only partially delivers on it’s whacked out plotline, fans of crazy movies will get solid portions of the undiluted silliness the story seemingly offers but at 115 minutes this romp is unquestionably too long. My patience with “Outlander” had been stretched beyond breaking point by the time Howard McCain decided to call an end to his maxed out Viking epic, had the film ended a quarter of an hour earlier I would have undoubtedly been alot more enamoured with what I’d just seen.

The performances are routine at best and dull at worst, McCain revealing himself as a far from stellar guide for actors. Caviezel isn’t an appalling choice to lead the charge but his offering is little better than average, he plays the strong and silent type adequately but by the same token unremarkably. Something a little more animated might not have done “Outlander” any harm, his quietly spoken and physically imposing shot as an action hero is excessively ordinary in the confines of such a ludicrous screenplay. John Hurt and Ron Perlman are more entertaining as a set of neighbouring warlords whilst much like Caviezel Jack Huston is stunningly so-so as the towns next in line to the throne. However the least impressive cast member is without a doubt British actress Sophia Myles, who fluffs her character from start to finish and cooks up a thoroughly half baked love story with Caviezel. Her interpretation is stunningly generic, the hard bitten daughter of a king having been explored even earlier this year in “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” (which incidentally McCain co-wrote).

The romantic elements in “Outlander” are a key problem as not only do they not work but also further the runtime to a notably overlong point, had it all been Viking banter and dragon fuelled carnage then this would have been a hugely more consistent property. The action is well shot and the opening hour moves along at a genuinely exciting and passionate rate, peppered with sword on sword anarchy and some top class creature chaos. The design of the Moorwen actually kept reminding me of the lizard in Roland Emmerich’s unloved “Godzilla” remake from 1998. It’s an imposing looking animal, as you would have to be if the audience is to believe you could give Ron Perlman a case of the shivers.

Clearly with the flourishes of otherworldly imagination (we see the Moorwen planet and the ways of Caviezel’s people) and frantic action “Outlander” had genuine artistic love backing it, the problem is that maybe said love means McCain has taken his monster vs. Marauders tale to unnatural lengths. The climax to “Outlander” follows an excellent set-piece- in which the heroes try to capture the beast- for pacing reasons that sequence would have been a more appropriate end to this venture. Yet McCain soldiers on delivering a bigger but not necessarily as enthralling a climax. Had one of the two final bombastic instances been trimmed and the Myles character dropped this might have been an exquisite dose of B-movie fun. As it stands it’s passable but pretty underwhelming.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


moviefnatic said...

I'm sorry, I think you are way off base in your opinion of Sophia Myles' performance. Her performance brought life to a film that could have ended up boring. Instead captured and held my attention from Sophia's first scene to her last. Sophia Myles is a breath of fresh air to the entertainment industry, and I eagerly look forward to her next role.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the comment above!

You have made many valid points but I personally feel you are being overally critical in regards to Sophia's role in the movie - She brought the role 'alive' and gave it exactly what it needed to be a believable character

Post a Comment