Outlander. No, not the Sean Connery “shotguns in space” movie from the ’80s, this time it’s Alien meets Predator in a Viking settlement, with Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) playing a space traveler named Kainen, hunting down a horrific dragon-like creature called a Moorwen. Can Space Jesus kill the predalienodragon, using only iron age weapons and whale carcasses? Like Doomsday, this film is derivative of its betters from 20 years ago but still makes for good entertainment.
When his ship crashes with the Moorwen in tow, he has to join with Vikings led by King Rothgar (John Hurt) and Gunnar (Ron Perlman) to defeat it, which is a bit of a task, since his space-faring folks usually nuke them or pepper them with plasma cannon fire. The story holds together when most B-movies of this type don’t bother. They don’t waste excruciating minutes of dialogue explaining everything- we see some flashbacks of Kainen’s family colonizing the Moorwen planet, and the terrible price they pay for their hubris. and while Kainen the Outlander is distrusted by his Viking captors- when he proves himself, we don’t get the lazy writing of having people still not trust him.
He does have to deal with Wulfric, next in line for the throne, seeing him as ambitious competition, but they bond over a charming Viking-era contest called “shields.” Rothgar’s daughter Freya (Sophia Myles, Underworld: Evolution) has a bit of Eowyn in her- she can swing a sword and wants to fight, and she gets to be more than just she-warrior eye candy. Ron Perlman (Hellboy) is a bald, raving lunatic swinging two big fuck-off hammers to our delight. He looked like he could beat the Moorwen to death with his nutsack, but the hulking beast has plenty of tricks. The real surprise is Cliff Saunders as Boromir (where have I heard that name before?), the oddly Irish-sounding warrior, quick to share his bag of mead. He’s the smart-ass of the bunch and keeps things from getting too serious.
The pacing lags a bit here and there, but the creature looks great and manages to be quite menacing; the characters are enjoyable and while the scares aren’t all that unexpected, the battles are great and isn’t that what a Viking movie where Space Jesus comes to kill Grendel is all about? Once you get past the ridiculous concept, they handle it quite well, and it’s a lot like The 13th Warrior‘s original source material- the source of the Beowulf legend with a supernatural twist. It’s a great popcorn movie and not as groan-inducing as most movies of that moniker. Milky and I loved it. many bellies were slapped in enjoyment of this fine piece of guy cinema.
Writer-director Howard McCain fought hard for this project to make it to light, and I am not frightened that he is writing the screenplay for the new Conan movie coming out next year. That project is still in development, and unfortunately will live or die on who plays the barbarian. I hope Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the obvious choice, at least gets a chance. He’s got the mighty thews and the charisma to make it work. Forget The Scorpion King and give The Rundown a try, it’s an overlooked, fresh and funny action flick where he shows his chops.
4 Viking bellyslaps out of 5