"This savage knows our ways!"
As I've mentioned before, when a studio keeps holding a movie back, it is usually a bad sign. It usually means that there's something wrong with the movie that they are trying to fix with reshoots, there's been a legal complication, they and the director are arguing over the editing, or the studio doesn't have faith in the movie (which means they think it sucks).
Pathfinder was supposed to come out last fall, and I think I know which of the above reasons is why it was held back until now.
What's really frustrating is that this movie could have been amazing: Vikings vs. Native Americans, 600 years before Columbus went the wrong way looking for India. It had potential for action, excitement, sword-swinging, adventure and all out coolness. Instead, we get a muddled mess, and it's a shame. It should have been awesome.
The movie has a really good cast. Too bad they're squandered. We've got Karl "Eomer" Urban as our lead, named Ghost. When Ghost was around 12, his father led a raiding party of Vikings to Newfoundland for the usual pillaging and murder, as the Norsemen were wont to do. This was also where he was to start his path of warrior training, but things didn't quite go as planned. This gives us our traditional "torn between two worlds" conflict.
When the movie opens, Ghost is a young man still struggling to fit into this new world. The tribe has gathered from their various small villages for trading and to debate who should become their new Pathfinder, a role that seems to be a mix between shaman and scout. The older Pathfinder is played by the amazing Russell "Last of the Mohicans" Means, who sadly is pretty much stuck with little do. The role is pretty much the stereotypical wise old shaman, who spouts clichéd cryptic advice to Ghost and everyone else.
Complicating matters, Ghost is in love with the Pathfinder's daughter Starfire, (the excellently named Moon Bloodgood from the quickly cancelled Day Break). He is rivaled romantically and for the Pathfinder role by a brave named Blackwing (Jay "Into the West" Tavare). Ghost wants to become a brave and try for the Pathfinder position as well.
Conveniently, this is when the new batch of raiders shows up, led by the cunning and brutal Gunnar, played by Clancy "The Kurgan" Brown. It's just a rule. You need a big bad-ass villain with a sword? Call Clancy.
The sad thing is he's buried under a set of Viking armor, furs, and blue face paint that pretty much makes his face a shapeless mass. This means he's limited to just his voice for his acting. Now, fans of Superman and Justice League will know that he can do that quite well, but all the Vikings speak subtitled Norwegian for some reason, turning his acting into babbling.
So the Vikings show up. From here there are chases, captures, tricks, traps, manipulations and more as Ghost, Starfire and some others have a battle of wits and steel against the Vikings.
As I said, this could have been awesome. Instead it's a badly filmed, poorly written, and mostly unexciting movie. Instead of a contest of wills and a battle of wits, we get a lot of chase scenes that aren't too thrilling. And some screaming. Not that there's a lot of screaming, as there is not a whole lot of dialogue at all in Pathfinder. Most of what is there is pure cliche.
Visually, the movie is very muddy, and has this overlaid blue-tone most of the time that makes everything indistinct and washed out. There are a few good swordfights, with bloody decapitations and gouged out eyes. But every time the flick's pulse starts to pick up from this, it goes back to another scene of walking, clicheing, or hiding that saps all the energy. You would think a scene where our heroes hide in a cave, stalked by angry Norsemen, would be a real nail biter. Instead, you wonder if you have time to go get a soda refill.
Now, there are some good points, such as the aforementioned few fights, and good acting trying to overcome bad lines. And there are some great visuals of the horned Vikings menacingly wandering the woods. The movie seems to do a decent job of being historically accurate. I really don't know enough on that subject to say if they are accurate. But it looks like they gave it a shot.
The Vikings also keep calling the Native Americans "savages,", which was somewhat amusing. I mean, that's a lot of nerve, Vikings pillagers calling others savage.
There are a lot of shots of Urban running around shirtless and in his little leather pants to serve as some nice eye candy for anyone who enjoys the beefcake.
Still, none of that makes up for the morass of weak writing and plot inaction that turns what should have been a kick-ass historical action movie into a jumbled, tired mess.
Maybe they should do a follow-up of Native Americans vs. Ninjas. Now that could be awesome.