Sunday, April 18, 2010

Movie Review: Outlander


Sometimes when you take a chance on a movie, you find a winner. And this is one of them.

Kainan (Jim Caviezel) is one of the last survivors of a decimated planet, traveling through space with his captain and the creature, called a Moorwen, that wrecked havoc and destroyed his loved ones. When his craft crashes on an alien world, Kainan survives, the Moorwen escapes and starts its reign of terror again. But before Kainan can stop it, he is captured and accused of the destruction of a village. And these "aliens"-better known as Vikings of Earth, circa 709 AD-don't trust him. Only after winning the trust of their leader, Rothgar (John Hurt), his daughter Freya (Sophia Myles) and his nephew Wulfric (Jack Houston) does Kainan find the trust and needed assistance to stop the Moorwen. But stopping it may cost them everything.

I admit when I sat down to watch Outlander, I had my doubts. The plot-human looking alien crashing on ancient Earth, Vikings and alien dragons-sounded like something you would see on Syfy on a Saturday night. And the film's brief theatrical run and dumping on DVD didn't seem to signal much hope of a good movie either. But Outlander is a good movie that deserves to be seen. While it isn't original in plotting-the first half where Kainan becomes a member of the Viking tribe is basically A Princess of Mars or Avatar in reverse, while the second half is the standard hunting the monster through its lair that Clash of the Titans recently redid with Medusa-director and co-writer Howard McCain brings a fresh vitality to it-helped by well done action scenes and tight editing. The Moorwen itself-basically a red glowing alien dragon-is also impressive and well-designed (not surprisingly, two of the concept artists listed in the credits are Ian McCaig and Ryan Church-both veterans of the Star Wars prequels, Avatar and did work for John Carter of Mars.) Also serving the film is the actors. Caviezel brings a good physicality to his role and manages to infuse his part with both feelings of loss and good humor. Hurt and Ron Perlman (as a rival Viking leader Gunnar) are old dependables and bring the expected excellent performances as does Houston and Myles.

The only disappointment is the fact that Outlander was given such short shrift by its distributor. I admit a Viking Vs. Alien movie might be a hard sell but the fact that it wasn't even given a chance while utter dreck fills theaters week-in and week-out is sad. It reminds me of Trick R Treat-another excellent film that suffered the same fate. Hopefully with DVD and TV airings though this film will find the audience it deserves. My rating: ***1/2 out of 4.

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