Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Movie Theater: Outlander (2008)

Medieval sci-fi monster movie

A visit to the Sunday Movie Theater at the end of the month, after the long review on S.I.C. Vol. 16 Kamen Rider Black RX & Kamen Rider Black. ^^

Movie poster is from IMDB.

Trailer of the movie.
Video clip is from Youtube. Follow this link to the website if you can't see anything.

"Outlander", a 2008 movie directed by Howard McCain. Technical movie details can be seen on IMDB, while the entire story is up on the movie's Wikipedia page.

The tagline of "Beowulf meets Predator" shown in the movie poster above is pretty accurate in describing the story of "Outlander". ^^ The original old English poem talks about Beowulf, the "outlander" who travelled from his homeland to assist King Hrothgar to slay Grendel. This movie is about Kainan (played by James Caviezel), an "outlander" in the sense of him being a human from another world, crash-landed on Earth and had to slay a monster called Moorwen in order to protect the kingdom of King Hrothgar (played by John Hurt).

Just change Grendel from a big ugly troll to a monster from outer space and that's pretty much it. XD

As an action movie, "Outlander" is certainly entertaining. Besides the hunt for and battle against Moorwen, there is Medieval sword-spear-bow-and-arrow conflict between the forces of King Hrothgar and Gunnar (played by Ron Perlman) as well, although the former is definitely the major part of the action scenes in the movie. It's also good to see that the movie didn't shy away from using gore and blood to ramp up the brutality in many scenes. Medieval weapons and warfare meets men-eating space monster already requires a high level of suspension of disbelief, a little extra realism through gore and blood is much welcomed in my opinion. ^^

Speaking of realism, the idea of old Viking-era warriors fighting against a space monster is an interesting one, and the movie did well in showing just how useless the locals are against the extraterrestrial threat with their lack of technology. ^^ As someone who had faced the monster before, Kainan has to rely on his experience and intelligence to improvise strategies using Medieval weapons to defeat his old enemy on Earth. This plot point certainly reminds me of the final battle between Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Predator in "Predator" (1987), in which Arnold had to devise traps using the jungle to defeat the alien.

Coupled with the design of Moorwen having green blood and could not be easily detected (at least in dark), the "Predator" (1987) elements in this movie are very obvious. ^^

In terms of the characters, I have mixed feelings about James Caviezel as Kainan. ^^; He's not a physically strong character, and having relied on superior firepower and technologies from where he came from, it feels odd that he could fight so well against the monster without any of those, even better than most of the local warriors who spent their entire life battling one another with the same weapons that he's now restricted to. ^^; The movie did offer a convenient device (literally ^^) at the beginning to give Kainan the understanding of his surrounding and even the ability to speak the local language, but that robs Kainan some potential for character development in my opinion. Another movie based off the idea of "Beowulf", "The 13th Warrior" (1999) directed by John McTiernan, one of my all-time favorite movies by the way, ^^ certainly did much better in that aspect by showing the difficulties faced by the "outlander" Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan (played by Antonio Banderas) to blend in with the rest of his comrades for the whole half of the movie before gaining their trust and discovering his own strength to fight as one of them. Even though it's obvious that he is not the leader of the group, his character development solidifies his role as the main character of the movie.

How can Kainan be called an "outlander" when he could do as well as the locals when it comes to, well, everything. ^^;

As established above, Kainan's strength is not part of his character that I'm particularly fond of, what I do like about him is his redemption. The backstory on the destruction of the monster's homeworld by Kainan and his people plays very loosely to the backstory of Grendel. Kainan participated in the massacre of the monsters even though he realized it was a mistake. The crash-landing on Earth therefore forces Kainan to face the monster directly and personally where he has to fight for a different course now - to secure his own survival and to protect the people around him.

John Hurt's portrayal as the old and frail King Hrothgar is amazingly convincing, as expected of the actor's calibre and experience. Another veteran actor, Ron Perlman did very well in showing off the brute strength of his character, Gunnar despite not having much screen time. I also like Sophia Myles as Freya, the daughter of King Hrothgar for er, reasons. XD

Overall, the story of "Outlander" is not overly special since its main concept is based off an old poem that is close to 1,000 years old, which has inspired many stories and movies in the past. The movie does presents a pretty interesting idea of Medieval Vikings fighting space monster, with entertaining action and solid performance from its cast.

Then again, given its "connection" to "Predator" (1987) and "The 13th Warrior" (1999), I suppose my liking of "Outlander" is somewhat biased to begin with since I really like those two movies. ^^

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