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20th Century Fox presents
Pathfinder: Legend of the Ghost Warrior (Unrated) (2007)

"If I cannot be a brave, who am I?"
- Ghost (Karl Urban)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: July 09, 2007

Stars: Karl Urban, Russell Means, Moon Bloodgood, Clancy Brown
Other Stars: Jay Tavare, Kevin Loring, Ralf Moeller, Burkely Duffield, Nathaniel Arcand, Stefany Mathias, Ken Jones, Nicole Muñoz
Director: Marcus Nispel

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence)
Run Time: 01h:47m:06s
Release Date: July 30, 2007
UPC: 024543450320
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A C+B-A- B

DVD Review

There's a song by the band XTC called The Mayor Of Simpleton, and it's all about a guy professing his love to a girl, even though he readily admits to being flummoxed by high-brow learning concepts, claiming "some of your friends think that's stupid of me, but its nothing that I care about." I can relate to that very same simpleton when it comes to movies, because there have been plenty of times when I've been left dulled by glossy mainstream titles or bored by highly touted foreign flicks. For me, sometimes it's the big dumb stuff that tickles me the most—when a movie can tap directly into a junk-hungry vein and give me a surge of sugary, high-calorie nothingness, I'm happy.

Case in point with Pathfinder: Legend of the Ghost Warrior, in which Native Americans and Vikings do battle for nearly two hours, in between mumbling about prophecies, white horses and dragon men, all set in North America 600 years before Columbus "discovered" it.

Is this big, dumb stuff? You betcha. But that's ok. It comes from director Marcus Nispel, and I'm one of the few, the proud, that will readily admit to enjoying his Texas Chainsaw remake, and that's coming from someone who bows deeply to the wonder of Tobe Hooper's original. Nispel's Chainsaw didn't necessarily bring anything new to the table—though Jessica Biel's white tank top may have done something to glaze over my brain a little—but it had a coarse, grim veneer to it, and it gave me that sugar rush I demand periodically.

Ditto for Pathfinder.

Pathfinder is Nispel's hewed-limbs/axes-and-arrows period piece take on First Blood, something he readily admits in the accompanying bonus materials. This is not much more than a vengeance story (we know this because one character actually says "his heart is full of vengeance"), about a young Viking boy raised by Native Americans after being recovered from a shipwreck; flash forward 15 years, and that boy has morphed into chiseled Ghost (Karl Urban), a skilled hunter who deep down knows he is not quite like the others. When a marauding band of savage Vikings return it is naturally up to Ghost to save his adopted people and lead the battle against the Norse attackers, who are led by Clancy Brown as a particularly gruesome warrior known as Gunnar.

This theoretically could have been Nispel's Apocalypto (ancient cultures clash!), though having the Native Americans speak perfect English pretty much puts a damper on the authenticity angle, which is even more distracting considering the Vikings all speak in subtitled dialogue. But I can forgive Nispel for not giving me a wholly factual history lesson, and instead serving up a Frank Frazetta-inspired comic book bloodbath where the Vikings appear like towering metallic, horned monsters swinging swords and maces with abandon, while the native types chat about honor and mysticism while making little flutes for cute children. In between the nearly neverending fight scenes, Urban's Ghost finds time to make woo with the beautiful Moon Bloodgood—whose character in the credits is listed as Starfire—and consummates things in a firelit bit of gentle lovemaking that probably should have been a bit more hasty considering an army of conquering Vikings were on their tail.

There's a lot of cringe-inducing dialogue here, and some of it is really, really corny. Yet the ability to dispense with logic is key to enjoying the silly action of Pathfinder, because Nispel and director of photography Daniel Pearl (both versions of Chainsaw) slather this one in graphic novel-stylized textures, with filtered, almost monochromatic tones, where only gushing arterial blood seems to carry any color at all. Do a Google search for Frank Frazetta's classic piece of 1973 art Death Dealer—that's what Pathfinder looks like. It's bathed in a dark palette, where smoke and shadow are everywhere, and even a wacky chase scene down a snowy mountain looks drab and dirty. Some of the action sequences suffer from being cut a little too fast—most problematic during the climactic everyone-dangling-from-a-mountain scene—and even though it can be difficult to know who's getting hack or cleaved, it ultimately doesn't matter, because we barely even know their names.

I doubt this will be shown in any history classes, but as mindless macho escapism it tries very hard (and often succeeds) to become Nispel's version of Frank Frazetta on acid. Swing that axe, and swing it hard.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Pathfinder is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. My advance copy—like so many Fox screeners—has a fair amount of edge enhancement and artifacting, something I trust will not be present on the final version. With the abundance of filtered, muted colors giving Nispel's film the look of a bleak graphic novel, I hope this one gets a nice cleanup job that will compliment the immersive audio track.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishno
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno
DTSEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Two principle audio choices are available—either Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS, though the screener copy I had is authored so it is not possible to use the remote to toggle back and forth between the two. Whether that is changed with the street copy will have to be seen. Aside from that, the two tracks are big and aggressive, painting a broad soundstage full of clanging metal, creaking wood, and arrows whooshing past. Not much a difference between the two, with both offering full-bodied bass to make things like the sound of horses falling to the ground boom and rumble.

French and Spanish 2.0 surround dubs are also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring Perfect Creature, Day Watch, Night Watch, 28 Weeks Later, Wrong Turn 2, Lake Placid 2, Mr. Brooks
7 Deleted Scenes
7 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Marcus Nispel
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Director Marcus Nispel provides a solo commentary track, where he expounds fairly eloquently on various aspects of the production, including his love of First Blood, the rigors of the shoot and how various cast members became involved in the project. Nispel has a nice sense of humor about the whole thing, and he does give good commentary, rarely at a loss for words, and 99 percent of the time serving up interesting production stories or his mock frustration at how his ideas for movies featuring gladiators or pirates had already been used.

A set of seven deleted scenes (10m:16s) also feature optional Nispel commentary, though none of the sequences really offer anything important to the overall story. One scene does feature an early Ghost versus rabbit hunt that hints at what will happen later, though the most interesting element is that these are work print cuts, and feature onscreen prompts for plate effects to be added later.

There's also a collection of seven featurettes, six of which are fairly self-explanatory—The Beginning (05m:13s), The Design (06m:31s), The Build (05m:08s), The Shoot (05m:39s), The Stunts (05m:34s), Clancy Brown: Cult Hero (02m:29s). They are all presented in anamorphic widescreen, and do a decent job gathering up behind-the-scenes footage and interviews in breezy, informative, lightweight chunks, in particular The Stunts piece. The only nonanamorphic segment is We Shoot Now! (02m:37s), a sort of fast-cut day-in-the-life of Nispel, which even features him getting a shot in the butt. Sure it was pixilated, but did we really need to see that?

The film's original theatrical trailer is included, but of real curiosity is the Concept Trailer (04m:16s), which Nispel put together in one day as an enticement to investors. It's a dark, bleak, beautiful thing, and its inclusion here is a nice bonus. A few other Fox trailers are tacked on here, as well.

The disc is cut into 24 chapters, and features optional subtitles in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Here's a film that has been ripped apart by more people than the latest Uwe Boll project. It would be easy to jump on the pig pile and make jokes, but I kind of liked it. It's mindless, violent, and undoubtedly historically inaccurate (there's the problem with the Native Americans speaking English, too). And let's not forget that it's-suddenly-snowing-Temple-Of-Doom-meets-Willow mountain chase that seems like it was part of some other movie entirely.

It's Viking versus Native Americans. Axes. Arrows. Maces. Decapitations. Quartering. Now that's entertainment.

 


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