Outlander – movie review
Outlander’s high concept premise is thus: A futuristic space pilot crash lands near a Viking village and then helps the locals to fight a Dragon. Reading that back, I can fairly safely bet that potential audiences will be split between the 2 reactions of either “Sounds terrible, pass” or “Sounds amazing, let’s go!” The more insightful members of the class will quickly deduce that Outlander is a fresh spin on the legend of Beowulf, coming only 18 months after the CGI, mo-capped, synonymous Robert Zemeckis movie.
The film calls to mind other fish-out-of-water adventures such as Pathfinder and The 13th Warrior, and I think that once you have assimilated the “Jim Caviezel is a futuristic alien” concept, the film compares a lot more favourably in that sub-genre. A great deal of the screen time is devoted to how this man wins over the Viking tribe, learns their ways, earns their trust, and so on. If you are prepped to expect this sort of thing then I suspect you will enjoy the film a lot more than if you’re anticipating 2 hours of cool future-tech weaponry confounding the natives like an 18-rated version of “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.”
Personally, I was expecting more of the latter, so was disappointed by the seemingly endless (unwittingly camp) scenes of male bonding and shield-dancing that goes on.
The “dragon” is inevitably linked to Caviezel’s appearance, thus providing the effects department with an excuse for a fresh alien creature design: a luminous, Anglerfish-style ambiguous form that works best when cloaked in darkness, and less well when poking its CGI head out of a fountain in full daylight. It’s a brutal beastie which dishes out some delightfully unpleasant ends to the hapless Vikings, and a narrated flashback gives the creature pretty solid justification for its actions.
The level of graphic violence is also carried through to a handful of spats between two warring human tribes, most memorably in a brutal two-hammered skull crushing.
Outlander is an intruiging amalgalm of several films you have no doubt already seen: the mediaeval violence of Braveheart, the swords ‘n’ wigs of Lord of The Rings (indeed London-accented pretty boy Jack Huston seems just as out of place and detached as Orlando Bloom did in LoTR), and a Alien Outsider theme that brought Witness (surprisingly) to mind. The messianic Caviezel maintains a commanding presence and is largely supported well by bodice-ripping Sophia Myles, a plait-bearded King John Hurt, geek-fave the ubiquitous Ron Perlman, and an army of iffy-accented Men in Fur.
Clocking in at just under 2 hours, it could have benefited from some judicious editing and a 30-minute shorter version would have helped maintain a decent momentum all the way through. That being said, if the idea of Vikings vs Aliens appeals, then you are most likely set for an enjoyable bit of escapist fun.