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  Publicity Stills of "Pathfinder"
(Courtesy from 20th Century Fox)

Genre: Action/Adventure
Director: Marcus Nispel
Cast: Karl Urban, Moon Bloodgood, Russell Means, Clancy Brown, Jay Tavare, Nathaniel Arcand, Ralf Moeller
RunTime: -
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: NC-16 (Violence)

Opening Day: 22 April 2007

Synopsis :

An action-adventure set in the time when Vikings tried to conquer North America, "Pathfinder" tells the heroic story of a young Norse boy left behind after his clan shipwrecks on the Eastern shores. Despite his lineage, the boy is raised by the very Indians his kinsmen set out to destroy. Now, as the Vikings return to stage another barbaric raid on his village, the 25 year-old Norse warrior (Karl Urban) wages a personal war to stop the Vikings' trail of death and destruction. Forging his own path, his destiny is revealed and his identity re-claimed.

Movie Review:

Pathfinder is a visual juggernaut that weighs half as much as it looks. Director Marcus Nipesl, who helmed the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, had all the weapons of a heavyweight blockbuster of Odin proportions: the fearsome theme of the legendary Vikings, Karl Urban of horse-riding fame from the Lord of the Rings and a big budget promising stunning visuals and climactic battle scenes. Unfortunately, Pathfinder fails to walk the talk, and quite possibly because there’s precious little dialogue in a movie that feels like a fleeting collection of fight scenes scavenged from Peter Jackson’s cutting room floor.

Karl Urban stars in this Viking battle-fest as Ghost, a Norseman left behind on American shores by the Vikings as a five-year-old boy. He is then raised by the Red Indians, who treats him as their own. We see flash scenes of the invasion early in the movie where Ghost, in his refusal to kill the wounded Red Indians, get whipped by his father and abandoned for not being a true Viking. The rest of the movie charts Ghost in his adulthood taking on the Vikings almost single-handedly to protect the people who raised him from the people from his origins of birth.

The first thing that strikes is the conspicuous lack of dialogue. This shortcoming is made fatal by disappointingly bad editing in the film. A scene can simply consist of Red Indians at their marketplace, speaking of the season in standard American English, followed by laughter and music-making. A scene is shown of Ghost having nightmares of his past and before any follow-up or contextual development is done, scenes get cut abruptly. Discerning viewers can tell the horrid attempts at “displaying culture and people” while setting the “Story and past” for both the former and the latter. In short Pathfinder is a jigsaw of formulaic film-making gone horribly wrong.

Karl Urban, better known for his role as Eomer, the brooding horse-riding nephew of the King of Rohan in Lord of the Rings, is given barebones in the screenplay and script to work on. Like Ghost in the chilly winter, Urban ends up simply doing what he does best, grimacing, frowning and exuding alpha-male machismo. Unfortunately, for a film that requires him to go bare-bodied three-quarters of the movie and its seemingly “epic-style” posturing, both his abysmal physique and lacklustre plot development sinks the film faster than a leaking Viking ship with the Fat Lady singing on board.

Essentially Pathfinder is a cookie cutter movie that is the sum of 300 and Apocalypto. Unfortunately, it manages to turn the strength of those two movies into its own weaknesses. Pathfinder adopts the stylised, battle heavy approach of 300, but where 300 was grand, awe-inspiring and elegant, Pathfinder is barbaric, brutal and succeeds in its strange ability to demonise the Viking legend with barely a platoon size of them appearing throughout the movie. Three ships invading the Red Indians and Karl Urban looks upon them with dread-ful, lip-trembling eyes? And some tell me the now jobless Uruk-Hais from LOTR weren’t moonlighting as the Vikings in some scenes? Maybe they fled all the way from Mordor to Scandinavia.

Similarly, where Apocalypto involved culture and anthropology enthusiast Mel Gibson to hire native artistes and film entirely in Mayan language to try to recreate a credible story, Pathfinder finds a bunch of Red-Indians who look like Apocalypto rejects, speaking standand American English in them movie. All cultural grandiose vanishes faster than Ghost can frown when one hears the Indians talk about trading seasons in English.

In an IGN interview director Nipesl goes on about wanting to “(take) a proven genre and deconstructing it”. With Pathfinder, Nipesl takes the epic genre and demolishes it faster than a sloppy roadside busker could demolish Elvis in an impersonation. He goes on to say "Unless it sucks, I don't stop it.” I wonder. Non-existent scripting, horrific editing, paper-thin plot and lots of brutality, brutality and more brutality; I won’t even started on Moon Bloodgood’s eulogising Ghost as if he were dead, talking about how she has found a man who not only changed her life but the life of her people. Hello….V for Vendetta anyone?

What a ripoff.

Movie Rating:

(Only the special effects team found the right path…by ripping off LOTR)

Review by Daniel Lim


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