On Outlander

My Sophia Myles film festival began with Outlander.

Norway, 704 CE. A spacecraft crash lands near a Viking village. The lone survivor discovers that his spacecraft carried an alien creature, the Moorwen, and he begins to hunt it down. He finds one Viking village destroyed by the creature, but before he can kill it he’s taken prisoner by another group of Vikings. Accused of slaughtering the other village, his explanation that he’s hunting a dragon is treated like madness, until events transpire that there may be truth to his words.

The movie stars, besides Myles as Freya, the redheaded warrior daughter of the local Viking king, Jim Caviezel as the alien Kainan, John Hurt as King Rothgar, Ron Perlman as Gunnar, and Jack Huston as Wulric.

Just released on DVD on Tuesday, this film was completed and sat on a shelf for two years. It was released in Europe last year, then received a North American theatrical release of maybe 100 screens. The premise — Vikings vs. an alien creature — would have been very difficult to market, despite the film’s pedigree with Executive Producer Barrie Osborne of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Frankly, the film is a metric ton of fun.

The DVD box calls it “Beowulf meets Predator.” No, that’s not the film at all. This film is much closer to Alien 3, and the alien Moorwen has more in common with the Xenomorph than with the Predator. Don’t let the comparison to Alien 3 scare you away. Yes, I realize that many people hate the film. I think it’s brilliant, and I love the film for its bleak nihilism as I mention here.

Like Ripley in Alien 3, Kainan comes from a high-tech culture and is forced to defeat an alien menace with none of his technology at his disposal. If you’re at all curious what Vincent Ward’s Alien 3 would have been like (that’s the script with the wooden space station and the monks), it probably would have been a lot like this. A lot of time is spent establishing the primitive milieu. We get to know the Vikings, we get to see their culture, we get to see a Viking war, and then everything goes to hell. Plans are made. They fail. The situation becomes desperate.

The film looks fantastic. The Viking village is well-realized, and the costuming looks awesome. Outlander was shot in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and it has the rough, rugged look that I imagine eighth century Norway would have had. Performances are generally solid; I kept imagining, honestly, Christian Bale as Kainan, which isn’t a knock on Caviezel, and Ron Perlman and John Hurt bring the appropriate menace and gravitas respectively to the warring Viking leaders.

This is why movies are made, to pit Vikings against alien dragons. The film isn’t earth-shattering, but it is fun. The world needs more Viking movies. Until that day, we have Outlander.

2 thoughts on “On Outlander

    1. I think it’s worth hunting down, but of course I liked it so I’m admittedly biased. 🙂

      If I have one complaint, it’s that the DVD transfer could be a lot better. It seems awfully compressed to me, and the artifacting during some of the night scenes is distracting. You expect a lower visual quality with the deleted scenes — they weren’t entirely finished in some cases — but it’s occasionally distracting to see the image go blocky.

      I can’t really fault the film for that, though. It’s not the film’s fault; it’s the DVD mastering that’s at fault.

      If you look up the trailer, I should warn you that, as usual with trailers, it’s somewhat misleading in the way it’s cut.

      Definitely worth checking out.

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