Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring James Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, John Hurt, Ron Perlman
Directed by Howard McCain
Distributed by Genius Products
Viking, monsters, space men and the guys who played Jesus and Hellboy (and Hellboy’s dad); not a bad pitch for a movie, is it? And in most respects, Outlander lives up to be exactly the kind of movie you’d expect it to be, it’s just a little too long in the tooth and takes itself a bit too seriously to be considered anything great.
In the year 709 AD, a spaceship crashes in the middle of a lake in Norway. On board said ship is a man who was traveling with the bodies of his people to some unknown location, when his ship was attacked by a Moorwen, a monster that eats or destroys anything that crosses its path.
Our hero, Kainan (Caviezel), quickly looses the badass high-tech sci -fi weaponry he could use to potentially take down said monster and is forced to rely on the tribe of Vikings who at first take him prisoner to help him fight the beast before it eats their whole village. Seems simple enough, right? If only…
Amidst this struggle there’s also a feud with a neighboring village led by Gunnar (a woefully underused Perlman), a cocky upstart who wants to be king but needs to learn how to control his temper, a bullheaded princess (Myles) who is supposed to marry said upstart but just wants to think for herself, and the disturbing backstory of why Kainan is carrying the monster across the universe with him in the first place. All of these various plotlines melding together helps explain the film’s near 2-hour runtime, and the exclusion or drastic reduction of most of them could’ve made Outlander a helluva lot of a better movie.
The monster design for the Moorwen is badass, plain and simple. We’ve known what it would look like for a while, since we’ve been reporting on this movie for the better part of 2 years now, but it still didn’t diminish the impact the first time it’s shown in its full glory. And don’t worry, they do show the monster plenty … when there are scenes that actually have something to do with it, which are far happened far too infrequently for my liking.
Outlander’s most fatal flaw is that it just takes itself too seriously. There’s way too much going on to try and elicit sympathy from the audience for characters that its very difficult to form any kind of bond with. You really don’t care for any of these characters no matter how hard director McCain tries to make you. I can’t even really pinpoint why, either; it’s not even that the performances are bad cause they’re not; it was just very difficult for me to really formulate any kind of empathy for the people on screen.
The other big drawback Outlander suffers from is pacing. It is way too long and goes all tonally over the place far too often. If it could’ve pick and stick with one particular tone or pace it would’ve helped immensely. Instead it just seemed like no one could stand to cut anything out of the film for fear of loosing or confusing the audience, so they just left everything in.
I know it seems like I’m being overly harsh to Outlander. I think that’s because the premise of it was so simplistically cool that I was disappointed with how overly complicated it became so early on. I wanted a fun movie about someone from another place and time having to learn how to work with humans in the Iron Age to fight an unstoppable monster; instead I got a little bit of that mixed in with a whole lot of useless drama.
In terms of special features on the DVD there's lots more useless stuff to be found except for the audio commentary which includes writer / director Howard McCain, writer / executive producer Dirk Blackman, and producers Chris Roberts and John Schimmel. That was pretty robust, but the rest? Not so hot. Other than the extra audio track all we get are several useless deleted scenes, some animatics, and production galleries. A making-of would have been nice, but alas it wasn't in the cards.
Still I can’t say Outlander isn’t fun. If you can go into it knowing that there are parts that will drag but that they will be followed by parts that are just out-and-out cool, a good time is more than possible. Really that’s all I want from a monster movie; a good time. The best of them can give it and sneak some human drama or socially aware subtext into the story and not have it get bogged down. Outlander just isn’t one of them.
3 1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5
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