Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Pathfinder (2007 film) - movie review
'Pathfinder' (2007 film) [Wikipedia]
'Pathfinder' (also known by the alternate title 'Pathfinder: The Legend of the Ghost Warrior') is a 2007 American epic action film directed by Marcus Nispel, distributed by 20th Century Fox, and stars Karl Urban, Clancy Brown, Ralf Möller, Moon Bloodgood, Russell Means, Jay Tavare, and Nathaniel Arcand. It is a loose remake of an Oscar-nominated 1987 Norwegian movie of the same name although the geographic setting and peoples involved are very different.
Pathfinder takes place in "Vinland" (the Eastern Seaboard of Pre-Columbian North America) and the story involves a fictional conflict between the Native Americans and Viking marauders from across the Atlantic Ocean, who have come to the Americas in search of colonization.
Pathfinder received a widely negative critical reception upon release and was not successful at the box office, although the film did enjoy much better home video sales whereby the studio recouped its costs and developed a small cult status. It was also adapted into a graphic novel by Dark Horse Comics.
As the film began, the following text appeared:
600 years before Columbus,
North America was invaded by
ruthless marauders intent on
settling its shores.
Something stopped them.
What follows is the legend.
Of course, this film was fiction; and it almost had a "fantasy" type of feel to it. To say the least, there was no doubt about who the "good guys" and "bad guys" were. Since the film 'Dances with Wolves', it has been fashionable to portray Amerindians in a positive light, and Europeans in a negative light. It's difficult to do a review and also avoid this paradigm. The movie starts with an Amerindian woman seeing a "white horse" which chases her, and she doesn't know what it is; and that pretty much set the stage. The horse may have appeared like a dragon to the unknowing, and this horse was white. Shortly after, an earlier scene is shown of an earlier Viking invasion where a boy is left behind, and is adopted into "the people of the dawn." Amerindian life is then shown to be very peaceful, based on inter-tribal trade; beyond which the entire movie is non-stop violence as the "dragon men" return.
According to the historical record, there was a short-lived Viking settlement on the eastern Canadian coast, but there is no record of any warfare; much less the genocidal actions portrayed. The real Vikings attacked everyone, and did so as raiding parties. They didn't just slaughter people for the fun of it. The Vikings of this movie looked more like the Hells Angels motorcycle gang than to those of the historical record. They were huge and monster-like; completely covered in armor and heavy material. In many Roman movies, the Romans are portrayed as righteous despite the fact that they were invading another people, as in 'Gladiator' (the invasion of Germania). Here the Amerindians were pragmatically speaking English for the viewer, but the Vikings spoke their own language.
The early scenes seemed heartfelt enough, with the now grown Viking boy close to his adopted family, yet still struggling to fit in. At times later in the film, this dynamic did become a little bit ungenuine. The tribal chieftain--the "Pathfinder"--then tells the now grown man called "Ghost" who he is: "You were born of the dragon men, but you are ours now." There is a semi-romance thoughout the film between Ghost and the Pathfinder's daughter "Starfire." Ghost has one possession from his Viking roots; that being a large deadly sword that he practices with frequently.
The director seems to hold back from displaying cultural Norse/Odinic symbolism; as almost to try to place them more in a general "bad-guy" category. Only the dragon-head on a viking ship early in the movie was shown as a symbol. Even the horned helmets appeared different than what we perceive to be those of the Vikings; with these horns more like Satanic ram horns... sharpened and turned downward to the jawline on either side. I believe that I saw what at least appeared to be some Celtic knotwork on a couple of Viking breastplates, but I'm not certain.
There was a movie from the late 70s called 'The Norsemen', which portrayed a Viking incursion into North America, and which included warfare with Amerindians. 'Pathfinder" portrayed the Vikings almost like a perception of what we think of as "Nazis." "Gunnar," the chieftain--in particular, made references to the Amerindians as inferior, uncivilized, and savages; despite the brutality of the portrayed-Vikings, who murdered entire villages. They even hung someone upside down with their head in the flames, and pulled a man apart by tying his wrists with rope.
The cherry on top was they they even had the gall to call Ghost a "traitor" when he fought back. Ghost, at one key point, said in response "You're not my kind." At the end, there was a reference to keeping "the worlds of hate away from our shores." That's sort've an odd way to word it, unless those "worlds" were in reference to European "worlds" (Greek, Roman, Viking, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Russian, Venetian, etc. empires).
If you just want to see some action and fighting, then this is an okay movie if you don't take it seriously. I know, some people need to be portrayed as "evil" or you don't have a movie! Still, they took this to a real extreme. The Vikings weren't racial genocidists. They invaded everyone, very much including other Germanic peoples.