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Friday Film Review: Outlander

Outlander (2008)
Genre: SF, Viking, horror, fantasy
Grade: B-/C+

No, this isn’t about Gabaldon’s opening to her epic – and then some – TT series. It’s, as many people have said, Beowulf crossed with outer space. But wait, there’s more for romance fans. It’s also got a Rothgar! I kept thinking of JB’s “waiting for Rothgar” and laughing as I watched the Viking edition. Moth recommended this film as one that “initially wouldn’t be thought of as a romance.” So true. It’s another mishmash genre film that at first doesn’t make too much sense – outer space alien crossed with Iron Age Vikings – but somehow it all works out in the end.

I’ll just present the notes I jotted down after I watched it.

I just finished this and – I’ll be honest – I’m still not sure exactly what I just watched. A cross between SF and some Iron age Viking saga. SF guy (Jim Caviezel) crash lands on Earth. SF guy crawls out of his wrecked space ship before it sinks in a lake then passes out and awakes to find his friend dead. SF guy heads off and discovers a ravaged village then gets captured and beaten up while being questioned. Lots of getting beaten up in this movie. Viking babe (Sophia Myles) helps wash up SF guy after “questioning.” He escapes. Village where SF guy is being held gets attacked. SF guy is caught (again) and blamed all over the place but gets the King (John Hurt) to listen to him when he says that he didn’t do this. They all head off after the “bear” that Vikings now think did this. And guess what? They kill a bear. A bear of bears but…SF guy knows the real ravager is still out there. SF guy and Viking babe exchange lots of looks. The survivors (Ron Perlman) of the first ravaged village show up looking for revenge and are attacked by a beastie. All witness this and realize, hey, SF guy is right. It’s not a bear…it’s a … well, WTF is that?

It’s one mean muthafucka, glow in the dark, agile, armor plated beastie, that’s what. SF guy knows what it’s capable of and basically tells villagers that “we need a bigger boat.” SF guy and Viking babe share quiet, introspective moment when he tells her about how his people took over the beastie’s planet and it all ended horribly when his people were killed. Are we supposed to feel sorry for the beastie? Dunno but the action moves back to hunting it. Villagers rig trap, lure beastie to it, set it on fire and – whoa, party time! We killed it. Whoo-hoo! Only… they merely flame broiled it because…..it ain’t dead and it’s brought along a friend. Now where’d that come from? Dunno that either but now it’s double your fun.

SF guy dives for his crashed ship, loses Viking babe then heads back to village with Viking guy (Jack Huston). They build a bigger boa – um, I mean forge better swords and head out hunting. Only they dive down the village well into…caverns, or something. Lots of dead people down there. Or body parts of dead people. Only are they all dead? Hell no. Viking babe is being terrorized by beastie then…. violent stuff happens. And people die. And beasties are killed. Okay so that’s a spoiler but what did you think would happen? So…does SF guy stay with Vikings or phone home for pick up? The movie does have some romance so you decide if you haven’t seen it.

Did I like it? Actually, somewhat.

Did I understand it? Um, sorta. I got lost in the cavern part – no pun intended.

Caviezel and the main Viking dude, Jack Huston, are some serious eye candy. The other Viking guys aren’t bad either but most of ‘em end up dead.

Sophia Myles is cute and feisty and starts off wearing a darling little leather skirted number as she and her father sword fight. Thankfully she loses that – um – interesting getup fairly quickly and spends the rest of the movie in a period dress.

For a man from an advanced civilization, Caviezel doesn’t seem to have many special powers or anything to help keep him from being slapped around. Even his method of learning the local lingo looked painful – and nauseating. Good thing he learns a swear word straight off the bat. It’s a funny moment too.

Was it gory? Yes, but not as bad as I was thinking it might be. At first the killing is at night and we don’t see much. Later on things get more grisly but I still didn’t close my eyes or ff through it. I wouldn’t let any children see it though.

Am I glad I watched it? Sure, it was entertaining even if it was hard to follow exactly what was going on.

Is there sex or mental lusting? No sex and a little eye contact/yearning between SF dude and Viking babe.

But WTH is with the lighting? During the night scenes, you can’t see a damn thing. Was this on purpose to cover exactly what the Morwen is until later in the film? Was it to cover the lack of special effects money? Was it to simulate the fact that this is the Iron Age and no one had electricity? Did someone on the production staff just forget to turn the lights on? I don’t know but it bugged me because the creature seemed pretty cool and I wanted to see more.

There’s still lots of sword fighting and old fashioned killing. I do find it hard to believe that this beastie could have been on the SF space ship and no-freakin-one knew it. How’s that work? And I’m also not sure about the reason for telling us about how the beastie’s planet was taken over by land greedy SF people.

Caviezel does a good job underplaying his role. He doesn’t go all freaked out “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE PEOPLE! WHY WON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?!?” on them. He presents the facts of the matter, he demands to go along on the initial hunt and when the Vikings think they’ve got the beast, he lets them celebrate knowing the beast will appear again and THEN they’ll be convinced. And the convincing shot – you have to see it – when the torch is thrown towards the beast and it rears up and roars, is coolio.

Overall, it’s not a bad little movie. Interesting concept, cool creature that I wish I could have seen more of even in the early scenes when we’re still not supposed to know/see exactly what they’re up against, good actors, pretty good set/costumes and it’s not overly overdramatic/played-up. Thanks, Moth, for the rec.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

9 Comments

  1. Anne Douglas
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 05:16:08

    I remember seeing this at some point in one of those endless there’s-500-channels-surely-there-is-something-to-watch? moments. As you said, kinda ‘huh?’ yet in it’s own way it catches your attention and you have to watch until the end.

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  2. Jayne
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 05:50:53

    Agree. Very watchable even if part of the time I was wishing I could actually “see” more of what was going on.

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  3. Cherise Sinclair
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 08:34:49

    Thanks! I love SF films. Will give this one a try. :-)

    Cherise

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  4. nutmeag
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 09:07:32

    I think only few people outside of the SF-lovers really get this movie. I loved it, and every other SFer who’s seen it has said the same. It’s great especially considering its low-budgetness. I will agree the lighting made it hard to see much, but I chalked that up to cost-cutting.

    Another low-budge SF movie worth watching is Moon. It’s barely got the slightest hint of romance though (just the man pining after his wife).

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  5. Jayne
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 09:43:19

    @nutmeag: Since I don’t watch that much SF, maybe you explain to me the reasoning behind the account Caviezel tells Myles about his people taking over the Morwen’s planet. Is it to humanize the Morwen and have the viewer see it as something more than a mindless killing beast? Or is it to show us Caviezel’s inner, soft side? Or to forshadow the choice he makes about whether to stay or go?

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  6. Moth
    Oct 09, 2009 @ 17:01:38

    Thanks, Moth, for the rec.

    You’re welcome. :)

    I was so happy to see this review.

    Is it to humanize the Morwen and have the viewer see it as something more than a mindless killing beast?

    I took it as the humanizing aspect, yeah. Which is why Canaan sends the ship away at the end. He’s learned his lesson and he doesn’t want a repeat of what happened with the Moerwen’s happening to the Vikings. That’s my take anyway.

    Did you notice that the prow of the funeral ship at the end is carved in the shape of the Morwen’s head? I loved that detail.

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  7. Jayne
    Oct 10, 2009 @ 06:15:55

    @Moth: No, I didn’t notice that! And I’ve already sent the DVD back to Netflix. Oh wait, must disclose for the FTC – I watched a rented copy of this movie from Netflix. There, the government won’t come after me now.

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  8. Claudia
    Oct 10, 2009 @ 09:39:03

    I saw this as a $1.99 Amazon rental and was quite satisfied. It’s a shame the film was considered DOA and hardly marketed at all.

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  9. Jayne
    Oct 10, 2009 @ 10:58:21

    @Claudia: Was it ever shown in theaters or was it straight to DVD? I’ve seen comments about how badly the marketing was handled.

    ReplyReply

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