Wednesday, September 12, 2007

PATHFINDER - UNRATED

I’d been looking forward to seeing the Indians Vs. Vikings epic, PATHFINDER UNRATED (2007) for some time, but after reading the almost universally negative reviews online and at the IMDB after it was released, my expectations were considerably diminished. Nonetheless, my collection includes hundreds of films that everybody else says suck, and I can usually find something to like in even the most abysmal drek, so I decided to give the film a chance anyway.

The plot is pretty straight-forward: after a raid by Vikings on an Indian tribe, a young Viking boy is left behind and is raised by native villagers. Fifteen years later, the Vikings return and kill his adoptive family and burn their village to the ground. The young man (Karl Urban, LORD OF THE RINGS, XENA) is now set on a Rambo-like spree of guerrilla warfare against his own kind.

Well, once again, I’m going to buck the tide. I liked it. Anyone who calls this the "worst movie ever" just hasn’t seen enough movies.

First off, the look of the film is exceptional. The production design and photography are amazing and nicely stylized; the film looks as if every frame was painted by Frank Frazetta. There is very little dialogue, and what there is is of the "There are two wolves in every man’s heart: love and hate," variety, but what do you expect from a sword & moccasin saga?
Criticizing it on a historical basis is kinda pointless, too – the filmmakers have made no claims as to it being a history; in fact, they clearly label it a legend in the opening titles. And those who think the movie unfairly portrays Scandinavian explorers…. Cripes.

Is it a great movie? I wouldn’t go that far, but it sure doesn’t suck. The pace is good, the action sequences are well staged, the violence is appropriately graphic (no bloodless sword wounds here), and the cast – which includes Clancy Brown (HIGHLANDER) and Rolf Mueller (TV’s CONAN, unrecognizable under the make-up and Viking beard) is perfectly adequate for this type of action-driven flick.

This Fox DVD presents the unrated version of the film in a crystal 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The clanging steel, rolling thunder and rousing score are nicely served by a robust Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound audio mix. Bonus features are plentiful: there is a commentary track by director Marcus Nispel, deleted scenes, a half-dozen production featurettes, a "Clancy Brown: Cult Hero" featurette, the theatrical trailer, and an atmospheric "concept trailer" shot by Nispel to sell the project to studio suits.

For the visuals alone, it’s worth checking out, but if you’re one of those who go into films looking for reasons to dislike them, this isn’t for you. On the other hand, you’re up for 107 minutes of bloody escapism, you might want to give PATHFINDER a shot.

BUY: Pathfinder (Unrated Edition)