Friday, 11 June 2010

Outlander (2008) - I'm being kind about it

Outlander (2008) Dir: Howard McCain

It doesn't get much more high concept than this - a crashed spaceship strands alien starman in Iron Age Viking territory, slap-bang between two warring tribes. He's a Destroyer of Worlds, but is plagued with flashbacks of fiery desolation, caused by a dragonlike creature.

Thanks to a handy (but painful) device salvaged from the ship, said alien learns the viking ways in about five seconds. Which is a good thing, because he's captured shortly after. They think he's butchered a rival village - but the cosmic man sees the damage and knows that somehow the dragon-thing exists in this world also.

Frankly, it's all as bonkers as it sounds. Not that this is a bad thing.  Quite how Jim Caviezel (he was Jesus in that Mel Gibson movie) ended up in the lead role is a mystery, but he's ably supported by John Hurt and Ron Perlman. Sophia Miles looks lovely in it and gets to pout a bit, as well as swing a sword around.

The creature is the usual overly-designed, assault-on-the-senses CGI, but is used sparingly. Encounters are brief and bloody, and it's in those moments that Outlander most resembles Predator. One of the film's strengths is how it mixes things up. The plot isn't completely predictable and there's some surprising action.

With it's theme of 'going native', this movie predated Avatar by a good year. Unfortunately for Outlander's producers, Cameron really did raise the bar with his film; comparing those two movies, you can see how Avatar excels, especially in the visual depiction of alien worlds.

And as attractive as the viking thing is to me - has there been a viking-based movie that actually made much money?  13th Warrior, Pathfinder and Raising Valhalla all tanked at the box office. It seems that it'll take more than throwing SF into the mix, or 'from the producers of Lord of the Rings' at the top of the DVD box.

But if this film had been around when I was 12 years old, I'd have said it was the best film EVER.

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