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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Fantasy > Pathfinder (2007/DVD-Video)

Pathfinder (2007/DVD-Video)


Picture: B+     Sound: B+     Extras: A     Movie: B+



Released in April 2007 to little fanfare, Pathfinder passed into movie obscurity before it had a chance to build any kind of real word of mouth or audience.  Starring Karl Urban (Bourne Supremacy, Chronicles of Riddick) as a young man orphaned by the death of his Viking father and adopted by Native American parents, this Dark Age drama pits warriors from the old world against the braves of the new.  Called Ghost by his adopted tribe, Urban's character must discover his true identity and life purpose amidst the chaos of the arrival of another group of marauding Norsemen.


Buoyed by an excellent cast and nifty script from writer Laeta Kalogridis, director Marcus Nispel delivers a riveting, action-packed film that features lush photography and incredible costumes and sets.  Of course, the villains of this film are hardly historically accurate Vikings, looking in many instances as if they'd only just recently escaped the canvas of legendary fantasy painter Frank Frazetta, but they do ooze menace and mayhem.  Their leader, Gunnar is brilliantly played by Clancy Brown (Highlander, Carnivale).  His dark, brooding violence juxtaposes nicely with Russell Means titular portrayal of the Native tribe's Pathfinder, or medicine man. It is these two men who represent the two world's Ghost straddles, the violent, remorseless world of his Viking birth, and the wild, idyllic world of his adoptive parents.


When the Vikings arrive to raid and pillage the villages of the coastal Indians, Urban's character returns to find his home burned and his adoptive tribe massacred.  He fights a running battle with Viking pursuers bent on finding other tribes to slay.  Moon Bloodgod gives a stunning performance as the aptly named Starfire, the daughter of Means' Pathfinder and the love interest of Ghost.  The film suffers from some minor internal continuity flaws, but otherwise delivers incredible emotion and entertainment value.


The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix combines with an impressive score to deliver stunning soundscapes that mesh perfectly with the solid picture quality, but it is no match for the DTS 5.1 mix here which is one of the best of the year for a new film.  The gorgeous flora and fauna of the British Columbian location shots come alive under the lenses of the film's Super 35mm format, even with the monochromatic stylings by Director of Photography Daniel C. Pearl, who lensed both versions of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the remake of which Nispel directed.  This could be the beginning of an important collaboration and his work in Music Video has not dimmed his narrative sense one bit.


The extras provide a bevy of additional support for the film.  More than a half dozen featurettes take viewers on a guided tour of the film's origins, from its inception as remake of the 1987 foreign film of the same name, to the inside looks at costume and set design, to revealing interviews with some of the cast and crew.  This package certainly raises the bar for other action films when it comes to providing value-added content.


Action movies like Pathfinder sometimes suffer from lack of exposure.  This film makes up for its somewhat obscure subject matter with a solid script, spirited performances, and plenty of action.  One note of caution should be raised with regard to the film's R rating; it earned this rating by virtue of its extreme violence.  Folks who don't like gore, or have a hard time seeing innocent people killed, might want to steer clear, or at the very least step into the kitchen to make some popcorn every now and then.  However, the film's romantic angle and powerful message of hope provide a nice payoff in the end, though you’ll have to see the film yourself to see the actual ending.  Good thing half the fun is getting there.



-   Scott Pyle


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