The Red Right Hand

They Came Without Warning, They Killed Without Mercy, They Left One Of Their Own.

Marcus Nispel
Karl Urban
Clancy Brown

I'm a bit of a mythology geek. I like the sagas of the Norsemen and the legends of ancient European warriors. It's simple stuff, with a simple honour code, littered with unpronounceable names that are difficult to stick with - Egil Skallagrimsson, King Hrolf Kraki, Odd Onundarson, that sort of thing. When I hear that a film was being made about the Viking conquest of North America, I was very excited. I had always known that the Vikings were the first foreign invaders to set foot in the new world but it's a side of history that has been completely overlooked. First of all, a little history lessen for all you keen boys and girls. The only name you need concern yourself with is Leifr Eiriksson, a Norse explorer, who is believed to be the first European to have landed in America (Newfoundland, to be precise). Having found Greenland to be nothing more than a vast, puffin-filled wasteland, the Vikings set sail to head further West. I imagine when they landed there would have been the typical invader greeting or spatting with the locals over their 'right' to be there. Another little thing you may not know, this is a Viking helmet; this is not. Over the years, evidence has been found that disproves the myth of the large, horned helmets that Vikings would have supposedly worn; it is now believed that the horns were purely ceremonial and not intended for combat as they would have been overbearing and impractical. With that out of the way, allow me to tear apart this monstrosity. Pathfinder is one of those films that should have done well. All the elements seemed to be set in place; a German director, filmed in the country it's based in, fairly unknown actors and an ancient tale with the possibility to both educate and entertain. I'm still not sure who to blame at the minute but I want to point the finger at the Americans. Oddly enough, it's not their fault at all; in all probability, the general US public will lap this film up.

Set at the turn of the millennium (the last one: 1000ad), a young boy is found by a Native American, among the ruins of a Viking ship. She takes him back to the camp where the elders rule that his life be spared and that he should live as one of them, going by the name, Ghost [Urban]. As the years pass by, the boy becomes a man who passes the majority of his time trying to cope with his 'barbaric' roots and honing his fighting skills (apparently, arse-kicking is genetic). After a lot of flat-faced, crinkled-browed brooding, Ghosts' nightmares of the nine-foot, horned-helmet wearing, blood thirsty killing machines are brought into clear perspective as the Vikings return. Seemingly interested in nothing more than rape and pillage, Ghost vows to protect his foster society against his own people. This film is working on a very simple premise, that nurture holds sway over nature; you can be born a Viking and demonstrate certain hereditary characteristics but when separated from the pack and raised by others, loyalty is forged to those present. As far as historical inaccuracies go, this film is rife. Other than the Vikings landing in Newfoundland, everything is pretty much wrong. The action sequences are fairly well directed but poor editing leaves them feeling disjointed, disconnected and without any sort of continuous flow.

Supposedly based on 1987's Oscar nominated piece, Ofelas, Pathfinder really doesn't do justice to Nils Gaup's original Scandinavian tale of a boy who flees his people's murderous ways; even the similarities between these two are so thinly drawn that if you were shown both titles, back-to-back, you would have a difficult time justifying Pathfinder as a re-make. The two words I would use to describe this film would be 'grey' and 'dull.' There's a grey hue that saturates almost every single shot, insisting on night and mist over the lush green planes of Newfoundland and Labrador. The movie itself, with its dodgy narrative, mildly entertaining plot developments and mediocre brawls is extremely boring to watch. I don't generally like to use the word 'boring' when it comes to reviewing a film, I believe it shows an ignorance of pace; in this case, however, the plot seemed trivial and bordered on moronic. Surviving an avalanche! I ask you! All-in-all, I was greatly unimpressed with this release and I doubt anyone will remember much of it in years to come. You would be better off watching the underrated The 13th Warrior.

Release Date:
20th April 2007

The Scene To Look Out For:
I dunno, the opening sequence, stumbling across the dragon head of the Viking longship in the mist. That was pretty cool. There was also some neat eye surgery.

Notable Characters:
If the descendants of either one of these cultures aren't offended, I would be surprised. The Vikings are all mindless, blood-thirsty thugs and all the Thule are bare-foot hippy pacifists. If you can't tell, I didn't really like any of them. Clancy Brown was mostly swamped with beard, so we might as well choose that.

Highlighted Quote:
STARFIRE: "There are two wolves fighting in each man's heart. One is love, the other is hate"
GHOST: "Which one wins?"
STARFIRE: "The one you feed the most"

In A Few Words:
"A very dull film that once again taints the legends of a once proud people (Viking or Inuit, take your pick). It's just a shame because this is a story that could have been really well done, in the right hands"

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon