January 29, 2009

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Outlander (R)
Vikings meet spaceman meets extraterrestrial dragon in Outlander, a bizarre but kinda fun sci-fi movie.

I looked but Uwe Boll doesn’t appear to be connected at all to this project. Strange, because while it lacks some of his characteristic slipshodness (no scenery overtly appears to be made of cardboard, as it often so deliciously does in a Boll movie) the movie does have the same “what the hell is going on” feel that you’ll find in many of his movies. And, to be clear, I mean this as a compliment.

You know, sort of.

Kainan (James Caviezel) is some kind of space traveler who crashes to earth wearing what looks like an irregular Star Trek uniform mixed with discarded pieces of the Iron Man costume. After setting up a beacon and salvaging what he can from his ship, which plunged into a Scandinavian lake, he sets off into the world only to find a village in full destruction makeup but sans the bodies that usually come with it. The Vikings who arrive moments later capture our confused spaceman, who has luckily taken the time to have the Norse language implanted in his head before he left his crash site. The Vikings bring him back to their village, where king Rothgar (John Hurt) wants daughter Freya (Sophia Myles) to marry Big Man on Campus Wulfric (Jack Huston). Wulfric is a bit of a lug head, at least in the beginning, so she’s not so keen on that. She’s a sassy independent sort who likes to do her own sword fighting. Just the kind of free thinker who might fancy, say, a traveler from another world.

But before this Dark Ages version of Gossip Girl can play out, the village is attacked by a glow-in-the-dark dragon (it has a fancy space name and some insect-like features, but let’s just go with “dragon”). Despite their distrust of the short-haired, clean-ish Kainan, the Vikings warily decide to work with him to protect the people from fiery death.

Don’t you expect Ben Kingsley, that omnipresent supporting actor of crap movies, to pop up as, like, a neighboring Viking? He doesn’t, but there are neighboring Vikings and they arrive with the same anvil-from-the-sky panache that usually accompanies Kingsley’s appearance in this kind of film. Outlander is at times a little bit awful (I’ll bet you could guess the entire story line based on the first three sentences of plot description, and the acting suggests a high school production of Beowulf) but it is more often kind of cheesily entertaining. The sword-wielding, bad-ass Freya, the hot-headed Wulfric, the wise old Rothgar, the dramatic-irony-having Kainan — it’s all so absurd and yet if you had the right attitude about the whole thing you wouldn’t leave unsatisfied. C+

Rated R for violence. Directed by Howard McCain and written by McCain and Dirk Blackman, Outlander is an hour and 55 minutes long and is distributed by Third Rail Releasing.