Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Review : Outlander (2009)

When an intergalactic marine, Kainen, crash lands on earth during the bronze age, he brings with him a deadly alien named the Moorwen. As the predatory space beastie goes about its business of slaughtering hard ass Nordic warriors, Kainen finds himself entering into an uneasy alliance with a Viking clan lead by King Rothgar. All hell ensues...

How the hell did I miss this on release? A spaceman with a score to settle, a badass alien monster the size of a truck, and cool as hell vikings all in one movie! This is exactly the sort of nonsense that can lighten a mans heart. And its got BIG names too! John Hurt, Jim Cavaziel, the mighty Ron Perlman. What more do you want?

How about convincing CGI, a creature that looks downright cool and a very convincing Nordic setting? How about beheading and slaughter aplenty? Its all here.

How director, Howard McCain managed to persuade the legendary John Hurt et all to take part in such a crazily plotted work is beyond me. Although they are male, that may explain something of it. After all, the second I learned of this shit i was all over it like Micheal Bay on your pocket change. Its a boys wet dream. And, I thought, if done right, it could kick some mighty ass. 'Long shot, but fuck it, why not?', said I. Turns out it was a fine idea indeed. This is a full on creature feature that does everything right, often by doing things precisely wrong! Let me explain..

With a concept this wobbly, normally a director would go for the cheese. That's what we want in our monster movies for the most part. Not always of course. JAWS, THE DESCENT, ALIEN and many more go the serious route, and come out victorious and then some. But those films don't have fucking Ron Perlman as a viking, smashing peoples heads in with a war hammer bigger than his jaw and squaring up to a multi-colored disco alien! This is so downright barmy that any attempt at levity should sink it before it leaves port.

That's not what happens though. Somehow its tone of seriousness actually makes the whole dumb thing all the more fun. It shouldn't, you should be laughing at all this silliness but damn it, its drags you in and before you know your swept along for the adventure. Its inexplicable, frankly. its cardinal sin turns out to be one of its greatest strengths. This is a film that wants to be LORD OF THE RINGS, and in aiming so damned high, manages to make for a hell of a good time. LORD OF THE RINGS, though, its not. It feels more like a throwback to the 80's creature features and sword and sandals fantasies of the 80's. DRAGONSLAYER, KRULL, THE BEASTMASTER. Those sort of films. They took themselves seriously while no one did, and it made them all the more endearing. And that's how it is with OUTLANDER.

Performance wise its all over the place. Accents drop in and out frequently, and some performances border on the painful. Yet to balance this it has Cavaziel as Kainen, Oozing quite determination and anguish. It has Hurt, regal, powerful and dignified as the aging King Rothgar. And it has Perlman, playing Perlman. None of these guys should be here, and certainly none of them should be taking it all so deathly serious, but IT WORKS!

Adding to its wannabe epic feel are the effects and the sets. Both are exemplary. I understandably expected low budget eye torture, but it ain't there. The creature looks great and is very convincing, (though sometimes it appears almost to be animated in stop motion, AGAIN adding to the films cool by mistake), and the gore level is pretty high considering the material. Plenty of blood n guts on show here. The sets are often brilliant, often hearkening back to the Rohan sets on LOTR. At one point i was convinced that the royal hall was actually the very same one good old Theoden resided in, only with its bottom half removed. Ripping off LOTR should surely piss off a Tolkien geek such as myself. But nope. Again, it was endearing.

Indeed, there are many Tolkien rip-offs in here, both films share a producer). The flame haired daughter of Hurts king is a dead ringer, in looks and attitude, for Theodens warrior daughter, Arwen, and theres a shot near the end that screamed, 'Grey Havens',(if you dont care for the rings, worry not. These images are still cool). Sure, theres a good deal of fairly obvious green screen, but SHUTTER ISLAND, Jackson's KING KONG suffered the same problem. Didn't ruin that film, doesn't ruin this one.

I'm giving OUTLANDER a full on recommendation. With its loopy plot, its forlorn scene munching performances and its many fine action sequences, its a perfect film for a boys night in. Get the drinks in, smoke em if you got em, and round up a few of your equally immature buddies and your in for a good time. And if your buddies are missing in action, grab your girl and force her to watch it. It'll make for sweet vengeance after having to sit through the TWILIGHT films!

7 Viking Badass' out of 10

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