We are apparently in the midst of a minor Viking renaissance. In 2007, Marcus Nispel followed up his successful revamp of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
with the little seen Pathfinder
. Centering on an orphaned Norsemen, the Native Americans who raised him, and their battle against returning Scandinavian hordes, it was not a box office success. Heck, one imagines that most people reading this opening paragraph don't even know the movie existed. Now comes Outlander, a surreal sci-fi link up of Alien, Predator, Species, and Beowulf
. When it stays in space, it works. When it hits the ancient lands of Odin however, it flops around like fetid smoked fish.
On his way back to his home planet on a funereal mission, extraterrestrial Kainan (James Caviezel
) discovers a deadly alien beast known as a Moorwen onboard his ship. It causes the vessel to crash land in Norway circa the 7th century. After getting his bearings and sending a distress signal, Kainan begins to explore the area. He is soon trapped by warrior Wulfric (Jack Huston) and taken to the fortified stronghold of King Rothgar (John Hurt
) and his wild, unwieldy daughter Freya (Sophia Myles
). Article continues below
With the arrival of an "outlander" everyone is on edge. And to make matters worse, it seems like someone -- or something -- has destroyed the village of enemy leader Gunnar (Ron Perlman
). Now he is vowing vengeance. Soon, all the Vikings are teaming up to take on the bloodthirsty Moorwen. Of course, they need Kainan's help, as only his advanced ideas and strategies can save them from the terrifying, murderous fiend.
In the realm of specious speculative fiction, Outlander out-befuddles Battlefield Earth. If movies can be classified as certifiably insane, this one would get the Baker Act almost immediately. Howard McCain
, the driving force behind this oddball juxtaposition of Hagar the Horrible and monster movie schlock, must have been experimenting with highly hallucinogenic Swedish meatballs when he manufactured this Valhalla fever dream. It's just that bizarre.
Like oil and water, the two concepts being crammed together here don't necessarily mix. The alien stuff is interesting in a tolerable Man Who Fell to Middle Earth kind of way. Whenever McCain takes us to Kainan's planet and the battle with the Moorwen, we get lost in all the interstellar overdriving. But the Viking stuff is just laughable, looking like a Renaissance Faire that forgot to pay its dry cleaning bill. No one appears Nordic. Instead, we get a selection of British and American actors decked out in bad beards and leather body armor. Only Hellboy
himself Ron Perlman looks at home here which is more indicative of the actor's "otherworldly" looks than careful casting.
How McCain, a man who previously helmed two TV police procedurals and a goofball kids film, got the green light to make this movie will probably remain a mystery. He must be really good when it comes to pitching his projects. Caviezel, who still seems to be channeling his previous messianic role, makes for an interesting action lead. He's more of a compatriot than a conqueror. The fight sequences do have some sizzle, but we really want to understand more about Kainan's far off distant world. The sloppy CG shots of the Moorwen invasion are intrinsically engaging. The Vikings on the other hand are so overloaded with testosterone and rage that you'd swear they invented steroids. Their brawny, beefy response to everything grows old quickly.
Had it aimed much higher (totally somber and serious) or a helluva lot lower (lots of bawdiness, blood, and gore) Outlander might have worked. Even the odd melding of eras and ideas could have gelled. As it stands, we are left awash in inexplicable incompleteness, rendering the entire concept uninvolving and inert.