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Taking the wrong path through a potentially great story
A Scene from "Pathfinder".
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $18,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

May 17th, 2006: It is America, circa 1000 AD. A Native American woman finds a lone living boy on board of an abandoned ship, filled with frozen dead bodies. She takes him back to the village to allow the chief to decide on the child’s future. Cut to 15 years later, the boy is now a 25-year old man (Karl Urban), embraced by the Native Americans who raised him as one of their own. On one ordinary day, while he is away on a hunt, his tribe is attacked and almost entirely wiped out by those who had left him behind, the Vikings. Upon his return, the ferocious Nordic warriors capture him and force him to guide them to the other Indian villages. Feeling a profound connection to his Native American tribesmen, the young hero vows revenge against the Norsemen, going against his own origins. His tremendous fighting skills combined with a detailed knowledge of the surrounding terrain, aid him in his struggle against the odds. He becomes a savior for his people and falls in love with the Native American chief’s beautiful daughter (Moon Bloodgood) in the process.

What to Expect: As a former music video director, Marcus Nispel knows about style. His dreary horror flick, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a 2003 remake of the 1974 original, was drenched in a gorgeous palette of bluish green hues. The cinematography was spectacular, filled with stunningly eerie shots that effortlessly balanced just the right levels of shadow and light. The movie’s look was almost too polished for what was fairly horrific material. Unfortunately, as Michael Bay’s (Bad Boys, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor) protégé, Nispel comes from the “style over substance” school of filmmaking, so while The Texas Chainsaw Massacre may have been packaged scrumptiously, inside the box one would find an uninspired and fairly generic horror story.

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Since then, Nispel has moved on to new material, working on Pathfinder from a screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis (Alexander) and Nils Gaup. Gaup actually wrote Ofelas back in 1987, an excellent, Academy Award nominated Norweigan film on which Pathfinder is loosely based. The premise in Pathfinder relies on the evidence that Vikings actually landed on the North American continent approximately 500 years prior to Columbus’ expedition. The Native American tribes and the Viking clans reportedly clashed in several battles throughout the years, resulting in some intermingling between the races, similarly to this story.

One would think that Nispel’s keen sense for visual flair would lend itself pretty well to the movie. Reportedly, Pathfinder does look quite remarkable, utilizing the snow-covered landscapes as a gorgeous backdrop for the story. The Viking warriors have been filmed in the same manner that gave “Leatherface” much of his intimidating stature: with plenty of low angle shots and appropriately cast shadows. Additionally, their costumes also deserve a good deal of praise. You can check out how the film looks in the trailer. With Karl Urban (Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Bourne Supremacy, Doom) in the lead role, one would at least hope for an entertaining B-movie.

Early buzz suggests that Pathfinder is no Braveheart and may not even live up to The 13th Warrior. The general consensus following early screenings seems to indicate that the film totally lacks any content whatsoever beyond the endless action scenes and stereotypical dialogue. The idea that immediately sprung up to my mind when I heard of this story was how the hero’s moral dilemma and sense of belonging would be affected as he gets caught between the two realities: his origins and his life in the New World. Since the film apparently does not pause for character development, it will be difficult to allow such themes to build up. The movie has been described to contain very sparse dialogue that when it is actually uttered, it sounds laughable. Seemingly, there is no historical context within the film, no explanations or explorations of the two tribes, which are broken down into very simplistic movie clichés. The Native Americans are portrayed as a group so inherently good that they cross the line into obnoxiousness. Of course, the Norsemen must therefore accept their thankless role as heartless killers, void of humanity, on a ravenous quest to kill more innocents, without any reasons for their actions. The romantic subplot between the hero and the chief’s daughter doesn’t exactly redeem the film on any level either.

In Conclusion: With a $45 million budget, the movie appears poised to become a major disaster. The release date has recently been pushed back by a couple of months, which should allow for some extra post-production tinkering. Unless the major issues can be fixed, Pathfinder will remain incoherent. Unfortunately, there is only so much you can do with a film that has a troubled foundation to begin with. If the screenplay is awful, which is probably the case for the dialogue-shy Pathfinder, you can only keep trimming until there is almost no film left. The project that once seemed to have an abundance of life now appears to be heading toward the dreaded “Worst Movies of the Year” lists. While initially I considered the idea as a courageous choice to venture into historical territory not much explored before, now I feel that it might be more likely that the barbaric Viking-Indian warfare will be pure overkill. I believe some things will get fixed up during the editing process, but the future doesn’t look bright for Pathfinder.

Similar Titles: Red Sonja, The Beastmaster, Conan
April 13th, 2007 (wide)
July 31st, 2007 (DVD)

20th Century Fox

Marcus Nispel

Karl Urban, Russell Means, Moon Bloodgood, Clancy Brown, Jay Tavare, Ralf Moeller

Total: 139 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Drama, War/Western

Click here to view site

Rated R for strong brutal violence throughout

99 min





Pathfinder at RottenTomatoes.com

Pathfinder at AskMen.com

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