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DVD Review

DVD cover



Starring: James Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, Ron Perlman and John Hurt
Momentum Pictures
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: 15
Available 31 August 2009

The expansionist policy of his race has seen Kainan’s people seed colonies on many worlds. Heedless of the indigenous life forms they regularly engage in genocide. Following the seemingly successful eradication of the Moorwen, a counter attack destroys Kainan’s family. Fleeing the scene Kainan unwittingly transports a Moorwen who attacks his crew, causing the ship to crash on Earth in the year 709AD. Now Kainan must persuade an unsuspecting and suspicious Viking settlement of their danger as the Moorwen wreaks its revenge on the human population...

Outlander (2008 - 1 hr, 50 min, 31 sec) is a science fiction/fantasy film written by Dirk Blackman and Howard McCain and directed by McCain. The director said he wanted to make a version of Beowulf which would be assessable to a modern audience, which kinds of begs the question, did he not notice that various versions of the Beowulf tale have been filmed including Robert Zemeckis’s 2007 film.

On the surface the idea of a humanoid alien and a Moorwen monster crashing on Earth in the middle of the Viking era sounds incredibly silly, a sort of Alien meets the Eorlingas, indeed the film should not work as well as it does, but work it does.

The film's characters are little more than ciphers, so we have Kainan (James Caviezel) as the tortured warrior, disgusted at the violent excesses of his own race and haunted by the recent destruction of his whole family by the Moorwen. For a love interest the film has Freya (Sophia Myles) a spunky Viking princess, who is pretty handy with a sword and displays an independent temperament. The settlement is headed by stoically wise King Rothgar (John Hurt) who tries to teach his headstrong nephew, prince Wulfric (Jack Huston), what it takes to be a good king. Rothgar is trying to make peace with Gunnar (Ron Perlman) who blames him for the destruction of his village; so that when the Moorwen starts its attacks Gunnar blames Rothgar.

What makes the film a guilty pleasure is that the narrative moves forward at a pace which hides most of the plot holes. More importantly the cast takes their story very seriously which drags you kicking and screaming into the tale until you find yourself engaging in an enjoyable ride. It’s not the deepest film ever made and character development is sorely missing, but the actors throw themselves into their roles with some gusto.

Another element which makes the film successful is one of the best designed and most realistically realised monsters. Its use of light to lure its victims allows the director often to make the most of the monster, by hints and half seen images. Even so, when the monster is revealed it remains impressive still.

The film is presented with a sharp 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and a pretty decent 5.1 surround sound audio, with optional subtitles. The extras kick off with a pretty interesting full length commentary from the director, his co writer Blackman, and producers Chris Roberts and John Schimmel. There are a plethora of deleted scenes (26 min, 48 sec) including an alternative opening. In fact there is a lot of quality to be found here so I’m not really sure why they were removed in the first place; hopefully the Blu-ray version will allow you to reintegrate the majority back into the film.

The extras continue with a bunch of Visual Effects Tests (6 min, 25 sec) most of which either repeat what is found in the film or quickly, and I do mean quickly, give you a look at the shots in pre and post production. This is quickly followed by some Animatics (25 min, 56 sec) which showcases the illustrations and crude animation which were produced to layout the film, given its length you end up with a good chunk of the finished film. There are some artwork galleries and the inevitable Making of Featurette (16 min, 32 sec) which is the usual promo stuff, which big ups the film without going into too much depth. To round off the disc you get the original theatrical trailer (1 min, 43 sec).

I was quite ready not to like this film just on its absurd premise, especially the idea that a modern audience isn’t somehow able to access such stories without them being simplified. True, at heart, this is really a B movie, but it is played with conviction from its actors and has a great monster, so in the end what’s not to like?


Charles Packer

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