Outlander which came out in 2008 is a movie that is everything that you have seen before, and yet there is something about it that you also can’t put your finger on. The movie, directed by Howard McCain (most notably one of the writers for Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) stars James Caviezel (Angel Eyes, The Passion of the Christ), Sophia Myles (Underworld, Tristan + Isolde), Jack Huston (Factory Girl, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), John Hurt (Rob Roy, V for Vendetta, and Ron Perlman (Hellboy, every sci-fi film known to man)…with a small little bit part by James Preston Rogers (the guy that had the online campaign nominating him to play Thor).
The film is rather simple to explain. It’s a SyFy channel movie done with a budget of $50 million. At least, that’s the way I felt watching it. A space-man, Kainan (played by Caviezel) crash lands on Earth in Norway in 709 AD in the middle of the Vikings. On board his ship is an alien species named the Moorwen that are basically the ultimate killing machines. It gets loose when the ship crashes and he goes after it. He runs into a local group of Vikings led by King Rothgar (Hurt), with a women’s lib daughter, Freya (Myles), and an ambitious future king, Wulfric (Huston). They think he sacked a local village run by Gunnar (Perlman) and initially distrust him but later learn to work with him in a joint effort to stop that dastardly Moorwen.
The film feels like it tries too hard. Like it wants to be The 13th Warrior mixed with Predator but ends up being the 1999 Beowulf with Christopher Lambert and Rhona Mitra. The comparisons can continue from there. It is obvious the film wants to be Beowulf. Hero (and I’m under the impression Caviezel can’t do anything but look depressed and brooding) with a big ass sword wants to kill a giant beast (hell, at one point there is even the “mother” and the child Moorween…one of em even ends up losing an arm). Even the names Rothgar and Unferth come from Beowulf. Like the writer/director McCain felt he could make the beast more realistic if he made it an animal from another planet. There’s even an underwater swim to the caves of the beast. The Predator aspect should be obvious as well but I would compare it more to Alien. Why Alien? Because of the beast. It is literally more badass then an Alien. The thing has so many keys to survival. Decoys, color changing, pretty lights to entice things, a tail that is as deadly as the rest of its body. If it had acid blood I would say the alien wouldn’t stand a chance, fuck, even the Predator wouldn’t stand a chance against it. However, despite it’s prettiness and abilities the Moorween, the shots of it, the chase scenes, its movement, really reminded me of the Kothoga creature from The Relic, or one of those beasts from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Many people die, only a few survive, but as you can expect they triumph.
The problem with the film is that it does feel like a SyFy channel movie. For the most part, even from the well known like Caviezel and Hurt, the acting is very wooden. Sophia Myles is pretty to look at but if you’ve seen Underworld then you know what her acting is like. Huston is a pretty boy who…well…he’s a pretty boy. They throw a character in there for comedic effect, Boromir (played by Cliff Saunders who is known more for his TV roles), yeah, not only is McCain not that original, he even stole a name from Lord of the Rings. Yet most of the characters are comedic. I mean, for fucksakes they play a game that involves running around on shields that people are holding over their heads. Really? If someone would like to tell me how that makes sense or even belongs in the movie I will be all ears to understand. It almost feels like McCain couldn’t keep the intensity up for an actual Predator/Alien like movie. My guess would be that he showed the Moorween far too early. He should have held back. Kept the alien in the dark for a little while (scaring the audience with the unknown) before making him some gloriously terrifying creature. You know, like how every typical horror movie does it…he must have taken a page out of the Pitch Black manual (which isn’t to say that I don’t lurve that movie). At one point Kainan even uses his blade to look at the monster sneaking up behind him…think Clash of the Titans with the Medusa. The voiceover doesn’t help either. It is unnecessary and dull…especially done by Myles. If anything they should have done a voiceover like that of Conan: The Barbarian or Mad Max: The Road Warrior. Some old guy voice that sounds cool. Let us also not forget how a soldier from a futuristic society know how to wield a sword and use a bow. In other words…McCain isn’t a very original writer. He just chocked up a bunch of regurgitated ideas.
I actually found myself rooting for the Moorween. The movie explains that the race that Kainan belongs to actually conquers planets. If there are no intelligent life they will get rid of everything on it and terraform it for themselves. Well, that’s what they did, destroyed all of the Moorween. Except…for one. That’s the one who also killed Kainans family, caused the ship to crash, and is reeking havoc on the Vikings. Well fuck you humanoid…you wiped out his entire fucking species. I wish he had won. Well…I guess that would be I wish SHE had won.
So what am I saying? Do you like sci-fi? Do you like cheesy horror? Do you like fantasy? Do you like Vikings? Do you like watching people get decapitated with swords? Do you like all of this without the combined qualities of wenches? Do you like the cheesy SyFy channel movies (just not as bad as that fucking Hammer of the Gods movie with Zachery Ty Bryan)? You’ll like it. I will say, however, that if you like sci-fi you don’t see much. The ship that crashes, some fancy shit, a weapon get shot one time, and a flashback of them conquering the Moorween planet. That being said I wish he kept the armor on that he was wearing in the beginning of the movie.
A little bit of trivia for you via IMDB: “This is the first film in history to feature Old Norse, the ancestor of Modern Icelandic and several other Scandinavian languages. Howard McCain used an Icelandic professor to help translate the dialogue and to teach the actors how to speak the ancient language.”