starring Jim Cavizel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, Ron Pearlman, John Hurt
written by Howard McCain & Dirk Blackman
directed by Howard McCain
dvd release date: 19 May 2009
Weinstein Company, 2008,
Monster movies are a dying genre. I remember the good ol' days when I flipped on the Sci-Fi Channel and there was a Godzilla marathon from morning all the way into the late afternoon, and now-a-days you'll find either old Twilight Zone repeats or WWE crap. Sure, it could be argued that monster fans don't have any reason to complain with such awesome flicks like Cloverfield (2008) and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (2009) being released, but it's not the same. As a monster fan, I just want to watch mankind fight giant monsters with everything they got. It's a little unfortunate that monster flicks aren't all that mainstream, or at least get a bit more respectability than a new Saturday Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie, which are nearly always horrible (with the possible exception of Loch Ness Horror, aka Beyond Loch Ness, though I'm not entirely sure Sci-Fi's involvement with the project). Anyway, point is, it's disappointing there's so few monster movies being made these days, so when one comes floating my way, I might be a little biased and overcome with joy that I may not be thinking rationally.
Luckily, in the case of Outlander, the movie's damn good enough that I don't feel bad for going all geeky giddy on it. It's like Beowulf, but with more emphasis on the monster of the story.
Spaceman Kainan (Cavizel) crash lands in 1705 A.D. Norway and is captured by a local Viking tribe, blamed for the decimation of a nearby town, which is actually the handiwork of a Morween, a sadistic little beastie Kanin brought with him on his battered up ship. His pleas to the townsfolk to let him fight this monster goes unheard, as King Rothgar (Hurt) is convinced this is a ploy to help his nemesis Gunnar (Pearlman). However, once the Moorwen attacks Rothgar's own village, he allows Kainan's guidance in attacking and destroying this beast that has claimed many lives.
Jesus himself, Jim Cavizel (Passion of the Christ), heads the cast as Kanin, the future warrior who barely speaks and does what must be done for the greater good. Despite a short backstory sequence featuring not only Kanin and how he turns out to be the rugged, lost individual he is now, but also exploring the home world of the Moorwen, I felt we didn't get a good enough grasp of who Kanin was or how he felt sometimes. I sort of made up stuff as it went along. Not like I'm complaining...much...but it's a good heroic performance, and I wouldn't mind a sequel even if it had a crappy plot because Kanin is a interesting character to explore. His 'Hero' competition is Wulfric, played by Jack Huston (Factory Girl), and he's quite likable. Going the course of initially enemies and ending up friends, Huston and Cavizel play off each other well, and Huston's character is surprisingly interesting enough to case the audience to not only root for Kanin, but also Wulfric, which makes it a little complicated when it comes to a particular girl they both fancy...
The beautiful Sophia Myles (TV: Doctor Who) plays the strong female lead, Freya, who of course falls for the bad boys. Absolutely believable as a woman who kicks ass and takes name, Myles gives a great performance, it's just a pity her presence isn't more prominent. John Hurt, leader of the Viking clan as King Rothgar, is simply awesome. Aside from finding it difficult on my part to differentiate him from Chancellor Sutler in V for Vendetta, a movie that I have an unhealthy obsession with, Hurt's Rothgar is a man who is worn down but forced to keep fighting the good fight, unsure of who to trust or (sometimes) what to do; a stellar performance that echos the King of Rohan in The Two Towers and Return of the King. In an all-too-brief appearance, Ron Pearlman (Hellboy II: The Golden Army) shows his bald head and long grey beard as Rothgar's advisory Gunnar; a good but unspectacular cameo.
Concerning the evil beastie the Moorwen, its design is a cross between the monster in The Host (2005) and GODZILLA (1998). So, in other words, it's really cool. Its body has the Host similarities, while its face has remarkable resemblance to the Patrick Tatopolus-designed Americanized Godzilla, which may not be too much of an coincidence as Tatopolus created the Moorwen for McCain for free. The Moorwen is vicious, quick, merciless, and revenge-driven: a perfect enemy to face with primitive weapons. The battle sequences between the warriors and the Moorwen are simply awesome; there's a real sense of jeopardy, surprisingly enough. Although the end of the movie should already have been guessed before the 5-minute mark, there still was the sense that anyone could go at any time.
The script keeps everything grounded, realistically-speaking, and does a fine job making the audience hold onto the characters and give a damn. For a monster movie, the monster is sorta kinda the main attraction, and whenever human scenes are on, our 'Boring' pedometer is reaching 100%. But here, the characters and their interactions with each other - even their damn O.C. level drama - is enticing. There's one particular sequence which is sort of a bonding moment for Kanin and Wulfric as they basically compare dick sizes by playing a game called 'Shields' is extremely entertaining to watch, and actually kinda smart. It reminded me of the TV series' Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess for some reason...
Outlander is a good movie that has a stellar cast that makes these characters they inhabit interesting enough to hold ones attention until the monster shows up to cause some mayhem. It's a pity the Weinstein Company didn't think the movie was fit for wide distribution, which it more than qualifies for, and yet 'brilliant' and 'visionary' material like Babylon A.D. (2008) gets a big summer release; it's an unfair world. For those with Netflix and like monster, action, or period pieces, Outlander is a must-add. For anyone who blindly buys monster or action movies, this is a near-guaranteed hit.