A remake of the 1987 Norwegian film "Veiviseren" (which was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars for that year), "Pathfinder" is the latest from director Marcus Nispel, and it's a "period action film" (or, better yet, a lite historical epic), which is at least something a little different than the norm in this case, as really - how long since we've seen a viking movie? The picture opens in North America hundreds of years ago, with murderous Vikings pretty much wiping out whatever and whoever they come across.
However, one little child refuses to join in the slaughter, and he's thrown out of the pack by his father, only to be adopted by a local indian tribe. Years later, he's grown up and now named Ghost (played by Karl Urban, who's been great in supporting efforts in other films, but is somewhat bland as the lead here). A little girl asks him why he's so serious, and he responds that he's here to protect her - and her doll (one of the movie's many moments of goofy dialogue.)
Of course, about two minutes after he says that, cue the Vikings, who sail on in and destroy the village. When Ghost returns and realizes what happens, he knows it's up to him to rise up and destroy the invaders. The movie then pretty much turns into a lengthy and violent chase scene as the fight is taken throughout the mountains and even includes a fairly impressive sled chase, as Ghost slides down a mountain on a shield as a pack of vikings follow right behind him.
Director Marcus Nispel (the remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", as well as quite a few music videos) certainly has a strong visual style, although one could argue that a few scenes of the monochromatic film are a little too dark visually for their own good. Otherwise, the director certainly displays an ability to handle action sequences, as there are some very respectable ones scattered throughout, such as the absurd (but enjoyable) sled chase sequence mentioned before. Additionally, for those who have been dismayed by how action pictures lately have been rated PG-13 instead of R, have I got a movie for you: "Pathfinder" is an absolute gorefest (well, for a mainstream movie), with plenty of graphic moments.
The one issue with "Pathfinder" that really keeps this from being a better film is the dialogue. I know this is an action film, but some of the dialogue in the screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis (Oliver Stone's "Alexander") borders on dismal. Just about every line out of the character's mouths is a groaner, and part of me wondered if the movie wouldn't have worked better with the mute button on, as I still would have understood the story just fine. "Seraphim Falls" understood this perfectly well: the somewhat similar film operated with a minimum of dialogue (that film's opening is a dialogue-free chase sequence that runs 20 minutes), strong performances and managed to be a far more powerful film.
"Pathfinder", manages to be a reasonably decent B-movie overall and there were moments when I found it mildly mindlessly entertaining. There's some enjoyable action scenes and the movie manages to be reasonably swift, but it remains weighed down by an unremarkable performance from Urban and a screenplay that should have been seriously reworked before going in front of the cameras.
As I didn't see the film theatrically and no explanation is given, I can't tell the differences between the theatrical and unrated cut. However, I can only guess that the unrated cut offers more graphic action sequences.
VIDEO: "Pathfinder" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The screening copy of the film that was provided offered average image quality, with some mild artifacting and slight edge enhancement. However, this is still not the final copy and unfortunately, I cannot make any final comments on it, as the final copy will likely offer differing (and hopefully better) image quality.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was as high-impact as the fight sequences, with plenty of clanking metal, swishing swords, flying arrows and hard hits going off around the viewing space. Audio quality was quite good, with deep bass behind the sound effects, crisp dialogue (although whether that's good or not in this case is questionable) and a full-sounding, pounding score.
EXTRAS: Director Marcus Nispel shares his thoughts on the production in a commentary track. Nispel also returns in one of a small group of featurettes, called "We Shoot Now". "Now" is a decent - if surprisingly short - look at the director's day and an overview of his working attitude on-set. The other featurettes that are also found in this section offer looks at "The Beginning" (development and pre-production), "The Design", "The Build", "The Shoot", "The Stunts" and actor Clancy Brown. We also get seven deleted scenes, the trailer, the concept trailer (a neat addition, this "trailer" was shot on the first day to sell the studio on the film) and trailers for other titles from Fox.
Final Thoughts: "Pathfinder" has some solid action sequences (those looking for a more R-rated action picture will be pleased) and striking scenery, but the movie's dialogue is painfully cliched (even for an action movie, the dialogue is substandard) and one of the reasons why this stands as a decent B-movie with moments instead of something more. Rent it.
The Film C