Outlander Review

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Norway, AD 709. Humanoid Outlander Kainan (Caviezel) crash-lands his spaceship, which has been invaded by a creature called a Morwen, who sets about ravaging the local people. Kainan falls in with a warrior tribe, rallying them to fight the creature.


Here’s the pitch: Vikings vs. Alien! Frankly, you don’t need to know much more to be queuing overnight to get into the first screening. Genre hybrids — as seen frequently on Doctor Who — are always appealing, scrambling the fun of old-time matinée action genres like the cowboy movie or the Viking mini-epic with effects-packed sci-fi to draw in today’s kids. Outlander winds up in the niche occupied by Zone Troopers (World War II troopers meet aliens to battle the Nazis) and Hammer’s The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires (kung fu against vampires), and is none the worse for it. Like those films it’s no masterpiece, but is still endlessly enjoyable — even its failings and clichés are somehow endearing.

The script is a mutant adaptation of Beowulf and finds parallels for all the licks of the original, from the need to hack off a monster mother’s arm to the importance of well-diving. As Viking movies go, this doesn’t mirror the dour, bloody ethnography of Pathfinder, but plays more like a homage to Richard Fleischer’s lusty, hairy, ultra-manly 1958 masterpiece, The Vikings. Kirk Douglas’ walking-on-the-oars game from that film even inspires a contest in which Caviezel’s stern Man Who Fell To Earth alien and Jack Huston’s swaggering Viking warrior, Wulfric, jump around a mead hall on shields held aloft by drunken comrades. Sophia Myles seems more like the princess of an Esher pony club than sixth century Norway, but John Hurt enters into the spirit of things with whiskery declamations of kingly dialogue.

The plot doesn’t add up to much more than mystery spaceman plus Vikings having battles with a hulking, cunning beastie (the alien tells his allies it’s a dragon) which turns out to have a surprisingly good reason for being pissed off (as recounted in a chintzy backstory). Director Howard McCain stages action in a variety of locales (village, forest, cave, cliff), and the film keeps coming up with fresh ways for the monster to mangle Vikings as the heroes toil to improvise Iron Age creature traps.

A film version of fish and chips — humble, honest fare that’s ludicrous, inventive, gory within limits, and has a cast having so much fun it’s hard not to be swept along with them. And besides, you can’t have nouvelle cuisine every night of the week.