An alien spacecraft crashes to Earth, with a monster aboard. The time frame is The Iron Age and the alien ends up in a Norse village when the monster attacks. The alien must team up with the Vikings to try to vanquish the monster. Oh yeah…
The best science fiction movies deliver social context while giving us a fantastical world to discover. The back story of Outlander provides that social context with a great backbone for the movie. Kainan (James Caviezel) is from a race of people who attacks a planet, killing almost an entire species, the Moorwens, in the process. In retaliation, the surviving Moorwens attack Kainan’s people, slaughtering everyone who now lives on the planet, including his wife and child. Kainan blasts off in his spacecraft with the bodies of his loved ones, not realizing a Moorwen has attached itself to his ship.
The entire idea of the story is a perfect science fiction quandary. Kainan’s people were guilty of colonization and genocide of almost an entire species, yet outward appearances make them look human. The race they destroyed looks and acts like monsters, yet the monster in this film is simply gaining revenge on the wrongs perpetrated against it. Who is evil and who is the victim? This is a great basis for a movie and is loaded with fantastic questions to delve into.
Outlander does not answer these questions.
Instead, the movie is a fantastical mishmash of three genres, science fiction alien film, a monster movie, and a Norse Viking action movie. If you always wanted to see what would happen if an alien teamed up with a Viking to fight a monster, your dreams have been answered. Just don’t expect anything resembling a smart plot to come out of this film.
The alien Kainan crashes into Norway in 709 A.D. It is the Iron Age and he finds himself on the planet Earth with weapons and technology that would not be seen on the planet for thousands of years. In a flashback scene, Kainan’s people used what resembled bulldozers, proving aliens had the resources that we as humans would not invent until many years later. It is silly and ridiculous, and in this movie it is par for course.
At first, the Vikings don’t trust Kainan and he is accused of slaughtering an entire village of people by an egotistical warrior named Wulfric (Jack Huston). He is returned to Wulfric’s village where he is locked up and questioned. He tries to convince the villagers there is a “dragon” in the woods that is responsible, but they refuse to believe him. He is smart in that he explains his “ship” was sunk and he comes from a place “far away”, never revealing he is an alien. It helps that he looks human. When the warriors take him with them to hunt the beast, he saves the king (John Hurt) from a bear attack and is allowed his freedom.
Of course, Kainan knows it was not a bear that caused the devestation and soon the villagers learn this as well when the monster returns and attacks. They also have to contend with the slaughtered village’s king (Ron Perlman), who believes they are responsible for the earlier attack. The movie seems to bear a resemblance to what you might expect to see if the Scottish warriors in Braveheart had to fight a giant tentacled dragon, with a large portion of the Beowulf legend added in for good measure.
It is all nonsense, but it is good fun if you don’t think too much about it.
Kainan starts the movie with an awesome gun and even shows us what it can do by shooting a tree in the middle of the lake. Then he loses it when the Viking warriors capture him. Luckily, he can communicate with them thanks to a nifty machine he saved from his ship’s wreckage. See, it delivered the native language into his eye, which caused great pain, a bloody nose and some vomit thanks to the intensity.
His first word is fuck.
You know, I wonder what has happened to Jim Caviezel over the years. I assumed his turn as Jesus Christ would make him a star, as he deserves it. He had wonderful turns in Frequency and The Count of Monte Cristo, both very good underrated movies. However, since portraying our Savior, the biggest role he has had was in Tony Scott’s horrible Déjà vu. It’s time for him to step up and be a star, but movies like Outlander are not the way to do it.
What hurts this movie the most is the CGI of the monster. The monster is very low budget and seems to glow primary colors. At times, it looks like the promotional pictures you see of actors working on motion capture, with green or red dots in various places on the creature. It wasn’t very cool looking at all.
For a movie like this to work, it has to be cool and that is a problem. There are too many times where the movie takes itself too seriously and it might have been better to keep its tongue firmly in cheek a little more often. The acting is fine all around with Caviezel, Huston and Hurt all delivering in their roles. The movie is about twenty minutes too long and there are points where you just want to see more monster devestation. The scenes come, and they are pretty gruesome at points, but it could have used some fat trimmed.
There is also a rite of passage game called Shields. It is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen. That would have been the first thing I cut.
The director is Howard McCain, a man who previously made a cheap comedy in 1994 and followed it with two television movies. After a ten year break, he has been on a role, directing this and writing the script for Underworld: Ruse of the Lycans. He proves to be a completely competent director, with great camera angles and nice pacing when it comes to the horror scenes. He mixes the genres nicely and proves to have a good eye. He is currently working on the new Conan movie and seeing how this one turned out, I am interested to see the direction he takes with that. I just wish he was a little more effective with his editing.
At the end of the day, what we have here is cheese. It is miles better than similar low budget affair and makes Uwe Boll’s In the Name of the King look even worse than it already is. A movie like this needs fun scenes and they are available. Ron Perlman is rewarded with a spectacular death and there is a scene with a priest trying to exorcise the devil out of the monster that is just awesome. This movie is made for a bunch of guys to watch with plenty of beer on hand.
Is it good? No. Is it fun? Yeah.
There is a commentary track with writer/director Howard McCain, Writer/Executive Producer Dirk Blackman and Producers Chris Roberts and John Schimmel. You would hope that with that many people, they would have enough to say to keep your interest. In a funny bit of trivia, the alien language is classic Norse and then when he is transplanted with Norse, it now sounds like English. The producers laugh at how the Internet film critics complained about this. It is a nice track where they mention all the homages they placed throughout the movie, from Jaws to The Searchers to Rollerball. It is a really fun, very interesting commentary.
There are 27 (!!!) deleted scenes. I complained the movie was too long as it is, I can’t imagine with all these scenes added back in how long the original script was. Some are actual deleted scenes and others are alternate scenes replaced by variant sequences in the movie. These are also incomplete and anything that needed CGI is roughly rendered. One thing that I would have liked to see in the movie was the deleted Ron Perlman scenes, but most were just filler. In all there is 41 minutes worth of deleted scenes.
There are five Visual Effects Tests. These are computer generated tests of how specific things will look, for example the Moorwen walking and running. It is both in the first stages with just the shape as well as in the later stages where it is actually fleshed out. They also test the CGI using an actor in a test sequence. The other test involves the spaceship. Finally, there is a demo of various graphics used throughout the movie itself, both with special effects as well as simply adding backgrounds to scenes. The tests are all under a minute each and the demo reel is around 6 minutes.
There are ten Animatics of scenes from the movie, all very roughly animated. There’s also a production art gallery, which includes scenes, locations, creatures, costumes and props, and the trailer for the movie.