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To hear the review
To hear the review
That is the first line of dialogue spoken in Outlander. Jim Caviezel, you see, has just crash-landed his spaceship in Norway in 709 A.D., and through some kind of technological miracle, he implants the dialect and language spoken at that time, in that place, into his brain. So now he can communicate with the viking barbarians who inhabit that land. And the first word he says is “f**k”. If you’re the type of person who would wonder whether Norwegians of 709 A.D. knew the word ”f**k”, or used it, then this is likely not the movie for you. If, however, you are the type of person who raises a clenched fist at the TV and celebrates lines like “f**k”, then you may well love this film.
Outlander comes out on DVD May 26th from Alliance Films. It is described as “Beowulf meets Predator” on the DVD box. That IS a fairly apt description. Predator was a pretty badass movie where cartoonishly tough guys hunt some kind of super-killer being through the woods. And Beowulf is a movie about cartoonishly tough guy vikings that can be enjoyed only if you don’t, in any way, take it seriously. I would not be surprised if the entire concept behind Outlander was some studio executive saying “you know what would be cool – Beowulf Vs. Predator“. That is apparently all the thought that actually went into this movie.
Frankly, Outlander is a dreadful movie. It’s silly, it’s totally stupid, and it spends a lot of time throwing melodramatic nonsense around the screen with no regard for anything resembling logic. However, I enjoyed it. Like Beowulf, I am not 100% sure that the filmmakers had their tongues in their cheeks for this one. But I watched it as though they did, and on that level Outlander is reasonably enjoyable. This is just a really kinetic, foolish B-movie. It proves that Jim Caviezel doesn’t quite have the star power or cachet one would expect after playing Jesus, but that he can still carry a B-movie on his earnestly silly shoulders.
The basic premise – get this – is that Caviezel is some kind of space explorer who, for some reason, crash lands back in time in Norway. He implants viking language and dialect into his brain, and then sets off after a beast. This monster has come with him, on his spaceship, and is now loose in the area, slaughtering entire villages and indiscriminately killing everything. We learn how dangerous it is right away, because it appears to have killed a whale and then spit it up on shore. Whether it actually eats the people it kills is irrelevant. It is merely a killing machine, and that’s all we need to know.
In fact, we don’t even really see the monster until about an hour and ten minutes into the film. The rest of the time, it blends into the background (like the Predator), becomes invisible, and kills people from outside camera range so we don;t see it. This, of course, heightens the anticipation for the Big Reveal of the creature, which is decidedly disappointing. It’s very CGI-looking whenever we see it in its regular state, and the rest of the movie is mostly flashes of it rather than the full creature. When it’s in camouflage mode, it appears to be just a flashing display of LCD lights, like a sign outside a Las Vegas strip club. And only Jim Caviezel, the former Jesus, can save the vikings from Girls Girls Girls and the free Roast Beef Buffet.
So, not only do you have to be someone who can watch a movie with your tongue in your cheek, and also someone who enjoys lines like “f**k”, you also must be the kind of person who believes that a sign outside a strip club could eat vikings. And you can’t be someone who wonders why, when he is constantly wearing crazy sci-fi spaceman armor, does Caviezel never put on a helmet to go into space, or how the viking women ended up wearing so much makeup in 709. The only important viking woman is Freya, played by Sophia Myles, who is kind of like a low-rent Keira Knightley. Which actually works for me a lot, because I like Myles. And I hate Keira Knightley. She is, of course, the love interest who is hot for this stranger when he shows up, then she hates him, then eventually she learns to love him. Wait – this seems familiar, doesn’t it?
Well, to some of us it does. This is virtually the exact same plot as Army of Darkness, the sensationally tongue-in-cheek B movie from Sam Raimi to close out his Evil Dead trilogy. Where Bruce Campbell gets somehow sent back in time and unites two warring clans to fight the army of the dead. In this case, it’s Jim Caviezel instead of Campbell (no improvement) who unites the two warring tribes to fight this giant monster. They call him “Outlander”, instead of “strange one”, and his girlfriend doesn’t turn into a demon, so they aren’t exactly the same movie. But really, Outlander is Predator meets Beowulf meets Army of Darkness. And I smile a nerdy smile, because this makes me a little bit happy.
Of course, every movie about vikings must present them as a drunken bunch of manly, tough, barbaric brawlers who entertain themselves by fighting each other. If they weren’t like this, why bother putting vikings in a movie? In this case, they entertain themselves with a strange game of running-on-shields-while-drunk, which does double duty as Caviezel’s initiation into the viking fraternity. All of which lasts FAR too long and isn’t interesting at all. It’s fun, but likely inaccurate, to believe that vikings were really like this all the time.
The point is, however, that Jim Caviezel (who plays a character named Kainaan, but I am using his full name because I prefer to think of him as Jesus) is accepted into the fraternity. And now all the women are hot for him, and the kids all idolize him. (Including one kid named Eric, who I think is supposed to grow up to become Eric the Red. But no one explains.) In short, he becomes David Caruso from CSI: Miami, only in Norway 1300 years ago. And he unites the tribes, and fights the monster, and there is a decidedly cool sudden-beheading, and all the central characters get their final-meaningful-words death scenes, and everyone leaves happy.
I can understand someone watching Outlander and being very upset about it. You know, people who like their movies to be…good. I get that. If good is what you want, wait a week and rent Revolutionary Road. But if you can laugh at idiocy, smile at unnecessary badass dialogue, and wink back when a movie winks at you, you may well enjoy Outlander the way I did. The way I enjoy Steven Seagal movies.