Pathfinder (2007) / Action-Adventure
MPAA Rated: R for strong brutal violence throughout
Running Time: 99 min.
Cast: Karl Urban, Moon Bloodgood, Russell Means, Jay Tavare, Clancy Brown
Director: Marcus Nispel
Screenplay: Laeta Kalogridis (based on her graphic novel)
Pathfinder doubles in name, not only as a suburban vehicle, but also a sub-Urban vehicle.
Much like 300, Pathfinder is a historically inaccurate action-adventure based on a comic book (which itself is modeled after the thematic elements found in the Oscar-nominated Scandinavian film from 1987, also called Pathfinder, (Ofelas)), meant purely to entertain on a visceral level rather than strive for historical perspective or an original story. "Creative" license abounds.
Unfortunately, by coming out later (though, to its credit, it is rumored to have been made prior, then shelved), as well as after the similarly-violent tale of native North American survival in Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, a film like Pathfinder will most likely be deemed as coming too late to make a real impact. Also like 300, nearly everything about this film is total hogwash, merely a set-up to a grisly, borderline-horrific tale of one man's quest to sate a bloodlust of revenge for the sadistic misdeeds carried out on the people he once called family.
Around the turn of the first millennium AD, Ghost (Urban, Doom) is a Norse man who, as a boy, ends up orphaned and raised by a clan of indigenous peoples of North America after the Viking ship has shipwrecked. Despite their differences in culture, he is treated as one of their own, and has adapted to their language, culture, and way of life in every way. However, another Viking vessel has arrived on the shores near their village, and these barbarous men do what they are bred to do -- kill off anyone and everyone who get in their way of taking the lands. Without the weapons or armor to fight against these advanced fighters, the Native American tribe is all but completely slaughtered, but one thing the Vikings didn't count on is that the resourcefulness instilled in Ghost from an early age would give the native tribes a fighting chance.
On one level, Pathfinder does manage to work as a straight action vehicle, with some good effects, engaging battles, and even a few moments of fright. The Vikings are portrayed effectively menacing, and one does feel for the plight of Ghost and his Native American family as they are slaughtered so easily, and so mercilessly, by the uncaring, unstoppable Viking horde. It's a slick-looking piece, and if you can close an eye to the historical perspective, it's a dumbed-down brawler that manages to entertain for long stretches with a ripping survivalist tale.
Although the setting is different, Pathfinder is nothing more than a formulaic revenge film, very similar to many action flicks and westerns that featured similar premises of a loner who becomes part of a community and ends up being its savior (it reminds me of a mix of Rambo III, The Road Warrior, Conan the Barbarian and several Eastwood westerns that tinker with this formula -- High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and Pale Rider). As such, it's strictly fodder for undiscriminating man's of bloody violence, torture and vengeance, never stimulating anything in the audience except on the basest of levels.
Native Americans good, Vikings bad -- watch a good Viking kill all the bad ones -- the dialogue, what little there is, is not even necessary when you're dealing with storytelling on this level of simplicity. One could claim that Pathfinder came out a couple of years too late to feel fresh for today's audiences, but in terms of the popularity of these films, it is really decades. Not paving any new trails, this film merely finds paths already traversed and subsequently abandoned long ago.
©2007 Vince Leo