Starring: Jim Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, Ron
Perlman, John Hurt. Rated R.
Those yearning for a “sci-mythic”
take on the Beowulf legend may raise
their cups of mead to screenwriters Dirk Blackman and Howard McCain, whose
decade-in-the-making tale of eighth-century Vikings facing off against alien
predators has finally arrived on the big screen. Outlander, the undeniably silly fruit
of their labors, is a bizarre
pastiche of B-movie genres and clichés, but it’s not without its
For that, credit surely belongs to
Blackman and McCain, whose affectionate approach to the material serves them
about as well as can be expected. What could have inspired their curious
devotion to a story that seems to cry out for a Mystery Science Theater-style deconstruction?
Hard to tell, but there is an
earnestness in their storytelling that makes its foolishness somewhat
The plot, in brief: Kainan (Jim
Caviezel, of The Passion of the Christ),
a humanoid warrior from a galaxy far, far away, crashes his spaceship into a
Norwegian fjord only to discover that he’s been followed to earth by the
Moorwen, a hulking beast bearing an uncanny resemblance to Gozer the Gozerian,
of Ghostbusters fame. Captured by a
tribe of boisterous Vikings, Kainan proves himself worthy of freedom – he’s an
accomplished swordsman, capable of vanquishing animatronic bears in a single
stroke – and enlists their aid in slaying his man-eating nemesis.
There’s a fair maiden involved,
played with admirable gusto by Sophia Myles (Underworld), but why sweat the details?
While Outlander boasts all the trappings of a traditional hero’s tale, the
epic poetry of Beowulf is nowhere in
evidence. Only John Hurt, on hand as the wise King Rothgar, seems capable of
lending gravity to the proceedings, though not nearly enough to redeem Blackman
and McCain’s leaden dialogue.
The result is a well-intentioned
adventure that never quite generates the excitement it thinks it deserves, though
there’s plenty of unintentional comedy to be found in the movie’s more
bombastic passages. For those eagerly awaiting a consummation of the
long-simmering tensions between aliens and Vikings, Outlander is certainly the only
game in town. Those whose obsessions
lead elsewhere would be wise to look for alternatives.