Outlander (2009)
Outlander (2009)

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 55 min.

Release Date: January 23rd, 2009 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Howard McCain Actors: Jim Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, John Hurt, Cliff Saunders, Aidan Devine, Ron Perlman, Petra Prazak

 


 

A

spaceship crashes onto Earth in Norway … in 709 AD. As the wreckage sinks in a nearby lake, two humanoids struggle to the shore. The first is Kainan (Jim Caviezel), who, after awaking from unconsciousness, has visions of his departure from his family on a distant planet. He then realizes that his companion has perished. With help from his trusty computer, a lifetime of knowledge is uploaded into his brain, giving him the information he needs to speak the Norse language and to navigate through the Iron Age.

Quite hysterically, the first word out of his mouth is an expletive, and one very well known in modern English. It’s comical, but in that unintentional way, which gives the serious scenario a serving of silliness, which was surely not the screenwriters’ intentions. A scene later, Kainan is captured by villagers led by elder Hrothgar (John Hurt), whose daughter Freya (Sophia Myles) is supposed to wed Wulfric (Jack Huston) to keep the peace among the tribes. But, as these stories go, she’s too strong-willed to marry for diplomatic reasons. She needs to be in love.

After a brief interrogation, during which Kainan trades punches with Wulfric, it’s revealed that the mysterious outlander has arrived to hunt down a dragon. But those beasts are mere mythological fancies. And Hrothgar’s soldiers have more immediate problems to worry about: Gunnar’s (Ron Perlman) neighboring village has been sacked, and he’ll certainly blame Hrothgar and come looking for revenge. “This is the work of Lucifer!”

The basic concept of combining a space traveler with ancient peoples is rare and marginally amusing. But the execution, despite advancements in special effects, wanders dangerously close to the abomination that was 1999’s “Beowulf” (the premise is unmistakably similar), or even the more recent, tonal catastrophe of “Doomsday.” Such contrasting elements must be handled delicately, or else they’ll appear better fit for comedy. And, indeed, when the CG monster reveals itself, it’s difficult not to laugh at not only the pitiful visuals, but also the poor design; surely the filmmakers could have come up with something more practical for the budget and scope of this particular adventure. At least the makeup effects for victims of the creature are decent.

The production design isn’t too shabby for a made-for-TV movie, though this picture feels as if it was intended as a theatrical epic (it did, in fact, have a limited run, with a reportedly sizable budget). The sets are effective (from dense forests to spiked walls of lumber to a lava cave to a slippery waterfall) and the lighting appropriately dim, even if they collaboratively obscure the monster (which resembles the alien from “Alien 3”) in shoddy manners. But meaningless sci-fi flashbacks are unimaginative at best, taking away from – and taking audiences out of – the more realistic look of the Norse warriors and their weapons and accoutrements.

On the acting front, Hurt looks and sounds the part, but none of the other characters can match his authenticity (save for Perlman, who, in his funnily chameleonic way, can play just about any role). And the supporting cast is unnaturally styled and garbed for the plot – as unfitting as a Viking strolling through Manhattan. Additionally, the love story is bland; the human antagonist/rival, Wulfric, is ridiculously harmless; and too much screentime is wasted on boisterous merrymaking and mead-guzzling. Eventually, there are some brutal bandit battles, bloodthirsty pummeling with war hammers, and a showdown with the beast. But there’s also an emptiness to the action; the characters are unsympathetic and uninteresting, largely due to generic dialogue, while the monster is uninspired and unstimulating.

– Mike Massie

  • 1/10