‘Pathfinder’ movie review: good-looking Viking remake loses its way

A murky, muddled, self-indulgent action flick, Marcus Nispel’s Pathfinder is an unofficial remake of a true classic, the 1987 Norwegian film by the same.

And just like the director´s last film, a remake of the splatter classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the movie sacrifices the script – plot, characters, dialogue and all – for expressive visuals, giving us a nicely produced but entirely hollow film that passes as mindless entertainment but feels entirely unnecessary and somewhat insulting, showing no respect for the original film it´s taking away from.

And yet, the film does provide some fun on a Conan the Barbarian – nah, make that Conan the Destroyer – level, but Nispel takes things much too seriously, draining out most of the fun along with the color, and directing with the feverish artistic flair of a music video.

It´s all style, and no coherency – action scenes are so frantic and briskly edited that one often has little idea of what, exactly, is going on. Random bloodshed is all well and good, but sometimes it´s nice to know who´s getting their head chopped off, and who´s doing the chopping.

General plot is the same as the 1987 film, with a few cosmetic differences. A Viking boy left orphaned after a failed expedition into the Americas is taken in and raised by Native Americans; years later, the boy – now called Ghost and played by Karl Urban – faces off against a new wave of Viking intruders who have come to pillage and plunder and brutally, graphically murder any of the natives they come across.

And just why are they doing this? ‘Cuz they´re Vikings. Cue action and violence, as Ghost´s community is slaughtered and our hero is captured and forced to lead the Vikings to more people to slaughter – but he has some tricks up his sleeve.

And what the original film thrived on, the cleverness of the main character while sabotaging his captors, is ridiculously thrown together here as Vikings fall through thin ice, fall off narrow cliffs, and – incredibly – our hero instantly causes an avalanche with a catcall.

Russell Means appears as the title character, mostly incidental to the plot, while Moon Bloodgood (with a horrible accent) stars as his daughter and the token love interest. Urban, a talented actor perhaps best known as Eomer in the Lord of the Rings films, simply lacks the screen presence of an action star, despite featured roles in films like this and Doom.

Borderline offensive portrayal of Vikings isn´t exactly revisionist (it was similar in the original, but that was based on Lapp legend; this is based on a Dark Horse comic). Nice to look at, and not entirely bad, but watch the 1987 version instead.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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