Sunday, 22 February 2009
Directed by: Howard McCain
Screenplay: Howard McCain & Dirk Blackman
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Sophia Myles, John Hurt & Ron Perlman
Outlander is a big, bad, brilliant B-movie: slickly made, cool special effects, a fine cast having fun and oodles of Viking-on-alien action. Events open with a massive spaceship hurtling towards Earth. After a spectacular crash the pilot, Kainan (Caviezel) emerges and brandishing a big gun, sets off into the Norway woods seemingly hunting for something. On the ship with him he brought a big bad beastie from a far off planet and it’s now running loose in Viking times. But no longer has he set off than he himself is captured by a group of Vikings. At first suspect, they soon come to accept this ‘Outlander’ and when the beast begins to kill their people; Kainan leads the Nordic warriors into war against the alien predator.
Outlander does owe a little debt to Predator (alien beast crashes into remote forest, group of warriors do battle with it) but it is overall, a breath of fresh air and well executed fun. It may be a mish-mash of sci-fi, fantasy and action but it all works well thanks to the solid direction of McCain and the cast obviously having a ball. The Viking setting is a refreshing one and means the heroes must fight off the monsters with swords and shields rather than big guns and explosions. After the ‘jump-right-into-it’ beginning, proceedings take time to build as our hero adapts to Viking life, makes friends and enemies, romances the local totty and prepares for the final battle. This means it takes time for the beast to actually appear properly but we do get some characterization (more so than what is often seen in this genre) and we come to care about the characters when they do go into battle. Caviezel is a fine hero if a little too quiet and steely eyed sometimes but is balanced out well with John Hurt (obviously having a great time playing a Viking) and Hellboy himself Ron Perlman as a big, bald and tattooed Viking from another clan.
Plot wise, Outlander never takes any twists or turns that are unexpected and the outcome is never in doubt but with defter character interaction and tension built suspensefully, this matters not. Plus, a film about a giant space alien running around Viking times is never going to pause to discuss the depths of the human soul. The film also looks great. Filmed in some spectacular locations the Viking setting is grittily and muddily rendered (more The 13th Warrior than say Xena: Warrior Princess) and the CGI used to create the beast blends in will with the action. Once things do kick off, the spectacle is well handled, McCain orchestrating some fine action set pieces. The lack of appearance of the beast in the first half is made up in the second as it runs riot round the Nordic fighters in a series of brutal, sword wielding showdowns.
A great, big, monster mash, Outlander shows that genre entertainment can be a ton of fun and that there is life still left in the old Viking flick: especially if you throw in a giant, human slaying, space beast. Good stuff.