Director: Marcus Nispel
Starring: Karl Urban, Russell Means, Moon Bloodgood
An abandoned Viking boy grows up in a North American village, then fights against the Vikings when they return to slaughter more North Americans.
Vikings! I can’t remember the last time someone made a movie with Vikings. All that comes to my mind is an image of a young, grimacing Kirk Douglass. Oh, snap. I forgot about The 13th Warrior. Still, the essence of my point stands: We don’t get enough good Viking movies. And the Vikings in Pathfinder are impressive specimens, I tell you! They are massive, grunting, bloodthirsty, sword-wielding Vikings wrapped in furs, with horned helmets mashed onto their thick skulls. Booya! Well done, Pathfinder, well done!
In the other corner of the ring, we’ve got their opponents: peaceful Native American villagers, led by Ghost, who is none other than (drum roll, please) a benevolent Viking! As a boy, Ghost was whipped and abandoned in North America for refusing to kill a Native American baby during a raid. He grows up with the Native Americans and lives a life of semi-acceptance.
And now comes the plot dynamic: The Vikings return to North America to once again pillage and kill. They start with Ghost’s village, which they wipe out, except of course for Ghost, who was away hunting. For the next hour plus, the movie rolls from one fight scene to the next, with Ghost inexorably battling a force of a hundred or so enemies. To be more exact, after some perfunctory background setting, Pathfinder is essentially one long string of action scenes.
This action—and the mood of the film as a whole—is stark, bleak, and brutal. Blood flies, eyes are sliced, and heads roll in muddy, bloody, and gritty combat. Quite a few of the scenes are set in snow, and they lend the movie a bare, blue-gray, and raw edge. Man is reduced to his essential core in this barren setting, and the combat reflects it.
If you’ve read to this point, you might think that I loved Pathfinder. Ha, I fooled you. Pathfinder bored me. I consistently found myself wondering how much longer. Pathfinder, despite some plusses as an action movie, simply gets too many things wrong.
In many ways, the general sloppiness of Pathfinder pulls it down into the muck. Scenes are slapped together more out of convenience than logic. Need a cave? Viola! Here’s a cave. Need a sled chase? Viola, here’s a snowy mountain! The entire movie jumps back and forth from snow to bare ground so often it makes your head spin. At one point, Ghost and a young girl from the village leave the village together. They each go there own way, and a couple of minutes later Ghost is running in snow-covered mountains while the girl is running in a lush green forest. Huh? Where in North America would we ever have geography like this?
The action, despite deserving kudos for its grittiness, is in many ways quite sloppy. Too many scenes are shot too tight, in low light, and move so fast that it’s hard to see anything. And the Vikings, as well portrayed as they are, all look alike. It’s like trying to identify mastodons. One after another they die, but after about the tenth one, it all starts to look the same. It should also be mentioned that the Vikings deserve some Darwin Awards for the incredible stupidity they display in various scenes of the movie. I won’t spoil these for you, but let’s just string together these words and I bet you can figure out what happens in one scene: fat Vikings bunched together, heavy horses, lots of armor, thin ice. Didn’t the Vikings come from, um…snowy lands? Sigh.
The plot as well is more a beta version of a plot than a real story. Ghost’s struggle for identity is a non-factor, as it’s perfectly clear the entire movie who Ghost sides with. Even the title—Pathfinder, the Native American leader of his people who is supposed to tutor Ghost—is reduced to an afterthought in the movie. The Pathfinder makes a mere comment or two to Ghost in the movie, hardly anything worthy of “tutoring,” not to mention naming the movie as such. Both of these elements might have benefited from a script, which I think the producers forgot. Seriously. You will have flashbacks to Conan the Barbarian every time Urban stares icily in response to a question (see the nearby photo!). I am certain this review is longer than the script.
This general lack of dialog makes it difficult on the actors, who all put forth lackluster performances. Well, actually, a couple of the mastodon Vikings grunted impressively, but I have no idea what their names may have been. For all I could tell them apart, they may well all have been the same person. Karl Urban, as Ghost, is unimpressive. His love interest, Moon Bloodgood, who has a major supporting role in the movie, is equally uninspiring. No one else jumps to mind as standing out in the acting department.
As for our babes and hunks ratings, Pathfinder fails in this regards as well. Moon Bloodgood—who gets a few points for such an awesome name—is at times fair to look at, but mostly she’s wrapped up shapeless furs, and at times she looks quite plain. Karl Urban physically passes the bill, but struggles in the looks department as well. There isn’t much eye candy at all in this movie. Someday a producer will get it right and understand the importance of getting action movies out of snowy mountains and onto tropical islands.
To bring this to a close, Pathfinder deserves some kudos for its occasionally gritty and stylish portrayal of sword combat, and for some passable action scenes on the whole, but ultimately renders itself into a forgettable movie because of its extraordinary weaknesses.
The director, Marcus Nispel, also directed the 2003 movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Consistent Premise: 43
Body Count: 80
Time to First Dead Body: Fast
Special Effects: 53
Overall: 39 (You’ll have more fun seeing 300 a second time)