Pathfinder (Legend of the Ghost warrior) is a film that I have to say would have to be an acquired taste. Loosely based on the Graphic novel published by Dark Hose comics, upon its production, it was intended to be a "straight to DVD" feature. However, with the success of Frank Miller's "300"(another comic based epic), the studio decided to capitalize and gave it a shot in theaters. "Pathfinder" didn't enjoy the success of "300" though. This is a review of Marcus Nispel's extended unrated cut. Disclaimer: This review has minor spoilers (to prove a point).
The movie's timeline is set a few years before Columbus, somewhere in early North America. Our tale begins when a 10-year old Norwegian boy is found by a Native-American woman. Abandoned by his Viking brethren because of his refusal to slay a mother & child, the boy is taken in by the woman's tribe. Raised in the ways of the tribe, the boy oftentimes is still regarded as an outcast. Fifteen years have passed, the boy's Viking brethren (called "Dragon people" by the natives) has resurfaced to once again "pillage and plunder", in their path is the village he spent most of his childhood. The boy, now in his prime, must exact vengeance upon his former sires for his abandoment and to protect the life he has grown to cherish. Karl Urban( Doom)plays the lead role and the beautiful Moon Bloodgood (Eight Below) plays his love interest. Clancy Brown plays the leader of the Vikings.
"Pathfinder" is a hard film to judge. There are a lot of plot holes and inconsistencies, much of the film's main premise may depend on the viewer's imagination and interpretation(I did consider it a fantasy film). I suppose it would be easier to put one and two together if you managed to have read the Dark Horse comic, but I believe a movie should be able to stand on its own for the benefit of viewers who haven't seen the comic version. Details and motivation are put to the back burner here, as the supposed details of the so-mentioned "prophecy" are a bit blurry (my personal take is that the tribe prophesized a pale skinned warrior, much like the white horse), the Viking's motivation for the massacre (my take is that the movie depends on the "Berserker" reputation of the Northsmen--ok, I'll buy that.) and exactly how the lead character (Karl Urban) learned how to use a broadsword with nobody to teach him (perhaps because of his natural "Viking blood", a bit far-fetched, don't you think? or maybe he learned from childhood--hmm, a child wielding a heavy sword?). The Indian tribe are often mentioned as savages with NO knowledge of the workings of the sword that contradicts the idea that one who grew up among the Indians can learn the use of a such a blade. It was also mentioned that the Northsmen have no knowledge of the tribes' "spring season" and snowy terrain, how could that be, when they know how to use sleds? That's the movie's main weakness; it leaves so many things unanswered and things undeveloped, that it contradicts its groundwork.
Now for the action; while watching the 1st-2nd acts of "Pathfinder", the film "Apocalypto" came to mind, especially during the chase sequences. When I saw the scene with the frozen lake, Bruckheimer's "King Arthur" came to mind. Not to say that the director (Marcus Nispel) is stealing gimmicks, it's just that it shows that the director likes action movies. Even the Vikings have equal parts "Conan" inspired with a "Predator" look. The characters are flat and the acting is a bit bland. There is absolutely no sense of "society" between the warring sides. The movie definitely needed more depth to allow people to have a sense of community so that viewer can have an investment with the tribes' fate.
To its credit, the costumes are decent and set designs are quite well done. Put realism and spirit in the back of your mind, and it seems to be a decent "straight-forward" action popcorn flick. There is a lot of "hacking & slashing" with the usual bloody "splatterfest" that I'm quite certain people who like these types of films and not expecting much may find it diverting. As with most movies of this kind, it has a lot of machismo around the film, and a minor love scene (with little nudity). Set designs were also good and it helps the film with the set ups of the action scenes. The film does have good production values.
PATHFINDER is a watchable, passable, brainless action movie. Equal parts "Tarzan" and "Conan". I really wanted to like it but in the end, the empty plot just made me feel that it would have made more sense as a "direct to DVD" popcorn snooze, rather than having the studio pretending it was a "high-end" release. It wasn't horribly bad, but people will have to come in with the right expectations.
PICTURE/AUDIO: 2.35 Anamorphic widescreen enhanced. The PQ is very nice and free of dirt and grain. Colors are a bit bland but it looked intentional to create the atmosphere. The transfer is sharp with solid black levels. 5.1 Dolby/5.1 DTS English track is very powerful. The 5 channels of sound is very crisp.
EXTRAS: 7 DELETED SCENES--Director's COMMENTARY--7 shorts about the film's production. Now the keeper: TIE-IN with the graphic novel version of PATHFINDER. Needless to say, the comic version is a lot stronger than the film.
RENT IT! [3- Out of 5 Stars]
This review was originally posted in amazon.com on Aug. 1, 2007
When "Pathfinder" hit theaters a few years ago, I wanted to see it very badly. Unfortunately for me, it quietly came and went before I had the chance to see it. I heard almost nothing about it after it left theaters and began to lose interest in viewing it. Luckily for me, I managed to catch it on HBO awhile back and was instantly hooked. I sought out a copy of the DVD (which I had actually skimmed over for a long time thinking that it wasn't worth it), and was happy to find an unrated … more
I almost never totally pan films or books I take in, but this one is a deserving exception. I have never seen such a lousy interpretation of history as this film hands us and, as the author of an historical novel about Vikings and Indians in North America circa 1050 AD (The King of Vinland's Saga), I am particularly qualified to comment. I spent a decade researching the Norse incursions into North America before undertaking my novel and can say with confidence that there is … more
Pathfinder is a curious, cross-genre movie with elements of horror, sword-clanging fantasy, historical fiction, and Native American mysticism. A classic story of an outsider-hero, Pathfinder is set approximately five centuries before Columbus’ arrival in the New World, a time when Vikings were claiming real estate in Greenland and eastern North America. A young Norse boy is abandoned by his disapproving, conqueror-father and adopted by an aboriginal tribe. He grows up to become Ghost (Karl Urban), almost-but-not-entirely accepted by natives, yet a fierce swordsman and defender of Indians after a terrible assault on those whom he loves best. Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption) plays the fiercest of the invaders, a merciless leader who tangles with Ghost’s inherent prowess as a fighter, and engages in a psychological as well as physical struggle with him in the film’s final third, which involves a harrowing journey through an avalanche-prone mountain path. Russell Means (The Last of the Mohicans) is a typically comforting presence as the all-wise Pathfinder, leader of a tribal nation and Ghost’s supporter, while Moon Bloodgood (Eight Below) is outstanding as a love interest with nerves of steel. Marcus Nispel (who directed the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) guides the brutal if often exhilarating action as if it were amplified history. He makes the point for a contemporary audience that Vikings were as terrifying a danger to those whom ...