Merrick once got lost driving in a straight line...
Last week, we got a look at the trailer for this film.
This morning, Great Googly Moogly, Leonidas, and Derek Wildstar wrote in – fresh from a work print screening of the movie. Alas, unhappiness abounds.
PATHFINDER continues the long, strange trend of movies that carry a moniker also affixed to SUVs. PATHFINDER is a Nissan. HIGHLANDER is a Toyota. Another forthcoming Karl Urban movie, OUTLANDER, is a Mitsubishi SUV. I’m sure there are many others either already out there, or in the works...
I’d like to thank these folks for taking the time to send in their thoughts. Initially, we’d only received one report – but others dropped in during this article’s coding and preparation. The order in which these reviews are presented is not intended to reflect a review’s significance or import, only the order in which they were received.
Here we go. First up? Great Googly Moogly!
They showed us a working print of the film - it seemed to be finished except for a few FX shots, but the jist of the film was certainly there.
Unfortunately, things that usually help contribute to a good film, like a decent story and character development, were not. Combine that with a predictable story, battle scenes that seem to never stop but are never very exciting, and a serious lack of character development, and you're left with a film that manages to hold your interest but never seems to go any where.
On the positive side, I suspect that, come Oscar season, some of the voters might remember this film with a nod or two for costuming and perhaps cinematography.
As for the plot, think Tarzan meets the Vikings. Basically, a young boy (played as an adult by Karl Urban from Lord of the Rings) from a defunct Viking expedition is found by a local Indian tribe, taken in, and raised as one of them. He grows up just in time for more Vikings to show up, slaughter his village, and to vow revenge.
The rest of the film is mostly one long sequence of ambush after ambush, followed by one or two somewhat clever (but clearly foreshadowed) stunts that wipe out most of the enemy, followed by the obligatory final one on one battle with the main baddy.
There's barely enough dialogue to mention, and the contrived romantic sub plot with the local Chief's daughter (played by the beautiful Moon Bloodgood) looks to be included only for its own sake.
Meanwhile, the baddies are as clichÃ©d as possible, with dark, scary costumes that hide their faces, and absolutely no believable motivation except that they're baddies and, well, baddies are supposed to make life miserable for the protagonist.
In the end, its very much a run of the mill movie that combines the same old ingredients in a slightly different recipe, but fails to ever become more than the sum of its parts.
Leonidas wrote in with a different, more history-centric perspective on the film.
Remember that ++++GEEK WARNING++++ I issued last week? The one about the writer of this film? Leonidas touches on the script, here...
First, a little history.
I love history. I've made it a personal hobby of mine to "remember our past", lest I be condemned to repeat it. Ancient Greece and early Northern Europeans are perhaps my favorite cultures to read about. And this new little movie is based, for those who do not know (and you are never told this) on two probable occurances from our pre-American history.
The first is becoming more and more well known -- that Vikings discovered the North American Continent over half a millennia before Columbus (who didn't even reach our continent, fyi). Vikings made expeditions here, starting in Newfoudland (in 1010), and at least five were made total, that we know of. The second little possible piece of history upon which this story bases its premise is this: French explorers in the American Midwest (many centuries after the aforementioned Viking expeditions) came upon a tribe of native American's in the upper Missouri Valley.
Their skin was unusually light and apparently many also had bue-gray eyes. The implication (or one of them) being that a European (and most likely a northern European) had left behind a blood line.
So here we are at the movies. Fade In: A Norse child is found by a native American woman. All others from his ship are frozen solid dead. He is kept by the tribe. He grows strong. Fifteen years later, more Vikings return, kill practically everyone (except our boy), and he kicks the crap out of them with the help of some resourceful friends. Sounds like a movie? It wasn't. Here's why, in my opinion: Bottom line, the script was horrible. I'm a screenwriter.
I know the movie lives and dies by the writing. No amount of re-editing is going to make this movie any better than it is. What began as a story about a child in a foreign land, caught between two worlds, became a mindless roller coaster of bad, vengeful action. It was pure evil vs. pure good. I'm sorry, but that mentality just doesn't fly in today's climate. Even our troubles in the Middle East do not deserve such a black and white distinction.
The Vikings in this movie apparently came to America to simply kill the indigenous people here. They didn't want anything. ANYTHING. Not slaves. Not timber. Not sex. Nothing. They were mindless, roaring killers. No rape, no plunder (I'll give them pillage). The native Americans, on the other hand, were that generic, always smiling, never do-a-damn-thing questionable kind that I think we all know never really existed. Heck, some of them had to be kinda dicks, right? Not these guys. And you know what? I really didn't like them because of it. Almost as much as the retarded Viking killers that forgot their original mission statement of r.p.p.
Oh, yeah. And there's a sled scene. Here's my theory on any time you see a scene in a movie where someone is being chased on a jerry-rigged sled of some sort, flying down a snowy mountain: Kill me now. James Bond, maybe. Yeah, Indiana Jones did it about twenty years ago. Wasn't there even a "sled" scene in Willow? Enough said. DON'T. DO. IT. Your movie will never, repeat never, be the same after the sled scene. You've somehow entered another realm, one where no matter how good the rest of the story gets, people will have to say, "But, yeah... there was that scene... with the sled... I dunno, man."
So... our boy and (of course) girl are eventually captured and forced to lead the bad, bad Vikings to the next village. On the way, they manage to use the Viking's terrible assessment of snow and ice (go figure that one) against them. In other words, they lead them over ice, and the Vikings fall in the icy water. They lead them along trecherous mountain cliffs, urging them to tie a rope linking everyone together for safety -- and this of course results in one dude falling, taking everyone else iwth him. I thought dudes from places like Iceland and such would know better. Guess not. In the end, Vikings die, native Americans live.
This is what the movie should have been about: A young boy is stranded. He is raised by the natives. More of his people eventually return. There is not constant mayhem and carnage, but rather trading and fighting and he is caught, literally, between both worlds, where his past calls to him, but his present is so different that he doesn't know what to do. Sure, the Vikings can prove to embody the archaic principles he no longer abides by, but it should not be so black and white. He needs to be confused, and he needs to make difficult choices. He needs to find a balance. I hear our predecesors in this vast land were into balance, right?
Oh, and he needs to learn how to use a sword. Before cutting down fifty of his previous countrymen. Preferably NOT after only one twenty-second scene where he is swinging away at water and air in the forest. Call me crazy, but there is more to swordplay (especially when fighting a people who live and die by the sword, year after year) than owning a cool Viking sword. Have I said sword enough times? Okay...
There was no story of which to speak. I will never, ever get those four hours of my life back (screenings take up a lot of hours, mostly where you wait and cringe at who might sit next to you). And my friend who took me... well, let's just say I may never speak to him again.
That's my twenty-one cents. I am too tired and, truth be told, more than a little unsure of mankind's right to go on making this kind of stuff. And I wanted this movie to work so badly that I actually agreed to be a member of a test audience. Even I can't believe it. There aren't enough Viking movies out there. This will not help matters.
I'm talking to myself. I'll shut up.
Finally, the infamous Derek Wildstar really (most sincerely) hated PATHFINDER.
Traditionally, Drerek's comments strike me as being rather level headed - although I don't share his stated disapproval of short running times (I think too many filmmakers opt for far-too-sloppy excess instead of focusing on concise and clean storytelling).
I. DON'T. KNOW. WHERE. TO. BEGIN.
We all got to see the trailer last week and, if you're like me, you said "What the hell is PATHFINDER?" and then you said "Vikings vs. Indians? Hell YEAH, im in!"
Never in my life has a trailer made me feel like such a sucker.
Marcus Nispel directs. He's the guy who made a competent remake of TEXAS CHAINSAW back in 2003. Im now starting to think that it was the 12 (count them on IMDB) producers who made sure THAT film worked. Whether or not you liked that remake, some did some didnt, you must admit the sound design, score, cinematography and some of the performances and dialogue were WELL PRODUCED.
So by "competent filmmaking" im saying the film should, AT LEAST, make some sense to the audience and have decent sound and visuals. Oh, and story, acting and dialogue help as well.
PATHFINDER fails in every category. It is incoherent. It doesnt even make sense.
PATHFINDER, in its current state, is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. No exaggeration. After seeing this film... CATWOMAN will look like it was directed by Kubrick.
Let me do my list thing and lets get to the bottom of this abomination...
An indian woman finds a boy aboard a washed-up Viking ship filled with dead bodies. we never learn why the ship was there, how long the boy was there, or why the Vikings would leave a ship behind. She brings the boy to the Indian chief and then the screen cuts to 15 YEARS LATER.
I hate it when movies do a "15 years later" thing. its cheap. it would have been far better to see the kid being raised by the indians thus comparing the cultural difference between the indians and vikings. Kinda like Daryl Hannah growing up in CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR.
Anyways, 15 years later Karl Urban is the kid all growed up. We see about 4 minutes of the indian village, absolutely no detail is given whatsoever to their way of life, character development or... anything. Karl goes on a hunting trip and thats when the Vikings return, after 15 years, to attack the village. Why then? I have no idea.
Karl runs back to the indian village and confronts the Vikings, who then chase him for the next 40 minutes through the forest.
Apparently the Vikings need Karl to "find the path" to the remaining villagers who survive the initial onslaught. When Karl finally gets captured by the vikings, he is forced to lead them on a deadly path to find the remaining indians. Thats when Karl becomes the... PATHFINDER. Get it? Yeah me neither.
If im doing a bad job explaining the plot its because I cant convey in words how incoherent this movie actually is. it must be seen to be believed.
Despite the fact that the art director designed for CATWOMAN, ELEKTRA and CODY BANKS, the costumes are pretty good. The indian costumes are fairly generic but the Vikings are clothed in huge layered furs and armor with massive shields and swords and battle axes. The Vikings look more beast than human and thats cool.
Most of the props and set decoration are up to snuff but the problem is...
Let me guess... director Marcus Nispel was a music video director before Bay hired him for TCSM?
Yup, and this movie looks too flashy, too stylish, it looks like a CREED video.
Worse than that, 90% of the shots are close ups; the action scenes and the wildlife scenery is indistinguishable from one shot to the next.
More wide angle shots are needed to convey space and scene context. For instance, an action scene in PATHFINDER is a series of the following shots: a close up of a viking helmet, cut to a close up of a sword swinging, cut to a close up of Karl's face, cut to a close up of a horse falling.
Every scene is edited too quick and the result is a string of mind numbing incoherentness that is depleting my brain cells just trying to remember it and write this review.
Temp score. Generic at best. Hopefully they get a great score, this would really help.
Temp sound FX, i noticed they used horror sound fx which is kind of cool but un-fitting for this movie.
Temp visual FX, the audience laughed evertime they saw a cue card in the middle of the film that said "vikings falling off a cliff". But I understand, the effects are not done and when they are it will certainly help the film reach a basic level of decency.
There were 15 or so establishing shots that were not rendered (looked like shit) and this made the film look pathetic, but im not allowing that to effect my review.
As of today, 95 minutes. I said it for POSEIDON and I'll say it for PATHFINDER, a short running time makes the movie less "epic" and more "rushed". Movies need time to resonate their themes and ideas. Most of my favorite movies of all time are closer to the 2 hour mark.
Great costumes, but only 2 vikings speak (a total of 20 lines the whole movie). The other Vikings never says a word. Certainly no character development. We never see them eat, fart, shit or rape. I'd have loved to see them do something other than chase Karl Urban. The Vikings are 1 completely dimensional.
This has got to be the cheesiest and most UN-authentic depiction of Native Americans - rent THE NEW WORLD next week to see one of the BEST depictions of Native Americans EVER.
Karl's love interest: shes a horrible actress given a few lines of horrible dialogue. She wont be working anytime soon unless theres a PATHFINDER 2.
God help us all. Then theres Karl's mute semi-"special" sidekick who plays the whistle. When he finally gets killed i was so relieved, and as karl looked in the mute's eyes as he died.... I felt.... nothing.
Basically Karl runs around the whole movie with his love interest and a mute as they battle bears and kill legions of Vikings in slo-mo. I havent seen slow motion abused like this since THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN.
Karl I suggest that you put this one behind you. You did the best you could in GHOST SHIP, DOOM and RIDDICK, but this flick might set you back to B movie territory. Please Karl, read the script before you sign on. The fact that you have a total of 30 cliche-ridden lines for the whole movie might be an indicator that the script is a stinker.
The audience was laughing and snickering at everything the whole movie. thats a bad sign folks. I took a friend to this screening. He's not talking to me right now. He wants his 95 minutes back. All i can do to redeem myself is to save you all from the same fate.
In all fairness... Marcus, if you could add some more story, sub-plots, character development, dialogue, themes and wide angle shots and remove all the slow motion and the scenes with the "white horse" then you may have something here.
PATHFINDER is slated for July (I think) so theres plenty of time for tweaking. As it stands im giving it an F.