Written by: thegoldensimatar
Outlander is the kind of cinema folks should be trying to see over more published movies. In a cinematic wasteland choked with sequels and remakes, its great to see an original sci-fi movie that is incredibly entertaining. It’s a damn shame it got jilted a proper cinema release, prior to watching it, I thought it would be a hard sell; after watching it, no it wouldn’t be a hard sell, it’d be an interesting sell.
The core story of Outlander is pretty much a take on Beowulf with a science-fiction slant. You can draw comparisons between the Moorwen and Grendel, Kainan and Beowulf and even the Viking kings are named Rothgar (different spellings). But in the long and short of it, the story follows Kainan, whose ship crashes into a lake in Ancient Norway after a Moorwen stowed on board kills everyone. Kainan is captured by the local Vikings and while initially believing his story to be false, have to band together to defeat it.
Okay, it’s definitely a film that takes ‘inspired’ to a next level but while the storyline is Sci-Fi Channel Original in its notion; its execution is A list pretty much all the way.
The film is long at nearly two hours in length and while most of the film movies at a steady pace, there were some points that seemed a bit slow. The film really didn’t need to loose much in the way of minutes; the pacing simply needed to be tightened up a bit in some areas. However I found this to be a minor quibble as I was drawn into the movie and wanting to soak it all in.
The technically aspects of art direction and production design are solidly executed. The film has some serious coin (budget apparently close to $50million) behind it and it shows. Production Designer David Hackl got away from the Saw franchise long enough to lend his skills to the project. I must say, good for him to get outta the grungy basements and out into the open air From the Viking village and interiors of them, the brief scene in Kainan’s own home to the Moorwen’s lair on Earth; it’s all executed very well.
The film’s cinematography by Pierre Gill is also first rate. There is distinct high and low contrasts with the lights, but there some parts that I found to be a bit too dark to fully see what was going on. The camera work is fluid and there are some very nice crane and dolly moves that give the film a bit more of an epic feel.
Director Howards McCain (who also scripted with Dirk Blackman) direction is fairly solid. The film moves well and there is a great sense of confidence and seriousness about the film that probably wouldn’t have worked without it. Outlander marks McCain’s first foray into major production and he shows that he’s capable of handing a large film.
Dialogue scenes and a party in the Shield Hall are paced nicely, they tell and move the story along. While there are some lapses of judgment in the script on the part of the characters (mostly dealing with Kainan leaving behind his high tech armor and not trying to retrieve any till the end), it’s stuff that can be overlooked. McCain and Blackman spent time working on the dialogue scenes, making them part of the and not simple padding to get the audience to the next action sequence.
The battle sequences between Viking warriors and other Vikings as well as the Moorwen are executed very well with more fluid camera work than handheld. The use more of a steady, moving camera vs shaky-cam make the fights easier to watch (and I think more entertaining) while balancing them out when the editing got a bit too MTV.
Outlander is more of an action/science-fiction hybrid movie than a action/horror/sci-fi movie. There are some moments of genuine tension during the film, however there really isn’t anything one might call ‘scary’. There’s some standard ‘jump’ scares and some ‘creep’ scares, however the focus of the film is squarely placed on the action elements. I’m not complaining, more genres you blend in the harder it is to maintain a tonal balance during the film.
The film is top lined by a group of recognizable faces. James Caviezel (Passion of the Christ), Sophia Myles (Underworld), Jack Huston (Shrooms), John Hurt (Rob Roy), and even Ron Perlman (Hellboy). For what the film is, the acting is a cut above what is should have been with everyone either overplaying or underplaying their parts and they manage to keep everything at a bit of a neutral tone. It’s not great mind you, however it’s still good. The supporting cast props up the film well, though outside of the Viking who loves mead, most of the characters look alike and are interchangeable. Biggest grip with the actors is that Perlman is horribly underused as a rival Viking chieftain who shows up for maybe twenty minutes. It’s even sadder when he looks totally badass decked out in Viking garb and toting a pair of war hammers, and an accent.
Meanwhile, the Moorwen itself, designed by Patrick Tatopoulos, is definitely one of the freshest looking alien creatures in a damn long time. Unlike most alien monsters that look, well more like monsters, the Moorwen is angled more towards an animal in its looks and behaviors. It’s a vicious, tough sucker with some very cool offensive/hunting biological accouterments to itself. But, it’s all CGI.
The computer generated Moorwen (like the rest of the CG in the film) is well integrated when kept in medium/low light settings. When it is brought out into full on harsh light, it looks far more obvious. Not to say the CGI isn’t good, its very well done and there was a lot of time and money spent on making this stuff look damn good. While it doesn’t look photo-real, it is good enough to keep you in the film without too much disturbance.
Yes, yes there is blood. There is a nice amount of the real McCoy augmented with computer created blood, which thank goodness, is done in low lighting and is darkened to keep you from seeing its CG. The Moorwen’s blood is a bit different and during the finale battle when sword slices it is probably the most blatant CGI shot in the film. You’ll know the one I’m talking about when you see it.
The sound design is terrific and well balanced with the rest of the film. Geoff Zanelli’s score likewise balanced and I like the fact its orchestral based and not based in rock and roll or metal.
I must press again, see Outlander, and support an original movie that managed to squeeze its way into theaters past all the sequels and remakes. I totally dig this film, loved it and it’s sad to see it being mishandled in release. We’ve been crying to see original movies in theaters, now here’s one that’ll please fans who’ve wanted a fresh action/sci-fi movie. If its playing at a theater near you, go see Outlander before its gone, it took a damn long time to get to theaters, no telling how long it’ll take to get to DVD.
Well, this is the end my friends, I’m signing off for now. As usual, there’s nothing at the end of the credits.