STARRINGKarl Urban - Ghost
Moon Bloodgood - StarFire
Russell Means - Pathfinder
Jay Tavare - Blackwing
Clancy Brown - Gunnar
Ralf Moeller - Ulfar
Year - 2007
Score - 0.5 Howls Outta 4
I first saw the trailer to PATHFINDER right before watching 300 in the theater back in March. I didn't find the trailer at all appealing, and just found the name of the film absolutely hilarious. PATHFINDER? Was this film about a Nissan Sports Utility Vehicle with vikings mixed in? Okay, so I was pretty much knocking off a film I hadn't seen. Hell, it could have been a great film with an unfortunate title. Well, I was hoping that was the case after reading reviews as to how horrible the film was. So today, I got the chance to watch this so I can see for myself how bad this film is. I fell asleep the first time watching it. The second time, I was desperately waiting for the end credits. When it comes to PATHFINDER, it seems my hope for a great film is totally lost.
A Native-American woman finds a 10-year-old Viking boy as the sole survivor of a Viking expedition. After a second of deliberation, the Native-Americans decide to raise the boy as their own and call him "Ghost" [not because he looks like Patrick Swayze but because he's white]. Anyway, Ghost (Karl Urban) grows up and is not yet accepted by the Native-Americans because he's still haunted by his Viking past. He's forced to face his fears when a group of Norsemen return to kill every Native-American in sight, motivating Ghost into stopping them [because after all, white people are strong while Native-Americans are weak and cowardly - sigh...].
PATHFINDER is a disappointment on so many levels. Based on a 1987 Oscar-nominated Norwegian film of the same name, it brings absolutely NOTHING new to the action genre. It's so cliched and stereotypical that it's insulting to the audience its intended for. It's honestly one of the worst films I have ever seen and probably the worst film I've seen in 2007 [along with NEXT]. I don't remember the last time a film has literally put me to sleep. Not even THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION did that. There's no real story, the characters do things for whatever reason, and I was just hoping everyone in the film would die or go away just so the film could end. For a 100 minute film, it felt twice as long. It's sad because the set-up was pretty decent and could have led into a good film. But that was just wishful thinking on my part.
Let me just quickly state why this film didn't get a big fat zero: the visuals. The cinematographer of the film did a real nice giving a glossy feel to the film. Everything was clear, the use of dark and light was good, and the scenery looked as dismal as the box office gross for this film. I wish there was less smoke in this film [every scene had smoke like an 80s heavy metal video for some reason], but that's probably the director's fault more than the cinematographer. Also, the fight coordinator did a good job with the action scenes. The sword play was pretty good and some of the deaths weren't half-bad. If they were only filmed better, I would have been more impressed. These are only the good things I have to say about the film.
And now my complaints. I'm gonna start with Marcus Nispel, the director. A notable music video director and the director of the 2003 remake of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, Nispel is pretty good behind a camera. With PATHFINDER, it's obvious Nispel was trippin' on some acid. The visual storytelling was horrible, no character development whatsoever, and the editing was all over the damn place. Especially during the action sequences. Every three seconds, you'd see a quick, choppy edit that would disorient you. I seriously grew dizzy as I watched this film. I had to pause it several times to stop from throwing up. The part where Ghost is sledding down the snowy mountain in particular. I saw like 200 different angles of the scene in a span of 90 seconds. WTF? I don't think I've ever seen worst editing in my life. And then the slow-motion, the close-up of angry faces, and jumps of Ghost being in different places in the span of five seconds...ruining all sense of time and place in this film. It was like Nispel wanted to do something like what was done visually with 300 [both were done at the same time but 300 was released first]. And Nispel fails every time. Covering this badly directed and edited film with more gore and blood isn't gonna make PATHFINDER a better film. His attempt to create a film that looked like a graphic novel was nowhere a success. If you want to see better fight scenes and better directing, watch 300.
And the story...what story? I was expecting a tale of how one man is torn between two worlds and how he must make a decision by the situations he's put into. Didn't get that sense at all here. All I saw is how Nispel and the screenwriters made the Native Americans look pathetic just to make the Vikings evil and superior to drive the story along. As someone with some Native American blood in my veins, I was terribly insulted by the depiction of Native Americans in this film. They were easily slaughtered, made to look like fools, ran away from protecting their tribe, and were forced to call for the help of a WHITE person to save them. Yeah, because knowing your land like the back of your hand wouldn't aid you in beating foreigners, with massive weapons and horned helmets, who have no idea what the "new land" is like. Native Americans were not helpless. They were strong and they fought for their land, even if they weren't entirely successful. But they weren't cowards and didn't need some white dude to protect them from being slaughtered. They were peaceful, but they were warriors as well. And they had no accents and spouted the most cliched lines ever heard on film. I guess this was done to make the Native-Americans the heroes/victims of the film, but I was turned off by it all.
nd the depiction of the Vikings was no better. They seemed to be lumbering idiots who only had a sense for violence and nothing else. I'm sure the Vikings were much more civilized than that and had their reasons for traveling to the "new world". But you don't get that here because it's never explained why the Norsemen travelled to the land and why they have this thirst for a genetic cleansing. I guess trying to create some level of sympathy towards the villains as much as the heroes would just ruin the concept of good vs. evil, huh? It was like watching a lame version of THE LORD OF THE RINGS characters than an actual look at Viking life. Did you know that real Vikings had no horns on their helmets? This film tells you otherwise. So intimidating...oooh. Can you tell I'm scared? No logic, no story, nothing to get you to escape into the film...the whole film is just one very long montage of people getting killed for no reason whatsoever.
And then there's the acting, or lack thereof to be more precise. Since the film had only about 15 minutes of actual dialogue [most of it in subtitles and voiceovers], the actors mainly relied on body language and reaction shots. And none of them did a good job. It's sad because Karl Urban, who I enjoyed as Eomer in THE LORD OF THE RINGS and in the lead role of the video-game adaptation DOOM, is a better actor than what this film allowed him to be. Maybe he's just not ready to carry a film, because he had a lot of trouble keeping this dead weight afloat. I gotta say he was the best of the worst actors in the film. His action sequences weren't bad and had decent reaction shots to certain situations. Plus he's shirtless in the entire film to prove that he works out. I guess that's a good thing? I don't know, I think he needs to stick to supporting roles for a while until he finds a good film that allows him to display his talent. PATHFINDER was not that film.
Clancy Brown, who's most known as The Kurgan from HIGHLANDER, deserved better than this film too. He played the lead Viking, laughing and snorting throughout the entire film while spouting Norse that I did not understand at all. Plus he had fight scenes with Urban [the last one especially being overly long and tedious - God, I couldn't wait for that to end]. That's pretty much all he did.
And Moon Bloodgood from EIGHT BELOW and TV's DAYBREAK was okay as StarFire, the daughter of Pathfinder. She was supposedly the love interest/damsel-in-distress for Ghost, but Bloodgood and Urban had absolutely NO chemistry together. All they did was hug each other, giving off a friend vibe rather than a lover vibe. She was decent eye-candy for the film, but that's pretty much all she contributed. The romance subtext was obviously a last minute decision that backfired. Three decent actors in one horrible film...pity.
THE FINAL HOWL
PATHFINDER is a waste of your money and time. The acting sucks, the story is boring, and the direction and editing is even worse. I tried to find something good in this film as I watched it, but there was too much crap for me to dig through to find any. It's not of those bad films that's actually good if you begin to appreciate it's awfulness. The film is just plain bad and surprises me how this even managed to get shown in theaters worldwide. Not recommended at all, unless you don't mind wasting 100 minutes of your life away. This is one path you don't want to find.