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"PATHFINDER"
(2007) (Karl Urban, Moon Bloodgood) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Adventure: A young man -- born to Vikings but raised by American Indians -- must contend with his dual identity when Scandinavian marauders arrive once again with the similar intent of wiping out his adoptive people and their society.
PLOT:
It's hundreds of years before Columbus' arrival in the "new world" and Vikings have arrived and slaughtered the Native Americans they encounter. A shipwreck, however, leaves the ruler's boy alone in this strange world. Adopted by the survivors, he grows up to be Ghost (KARL URBAN), a young man who wants to be a warrior, but must figure out his true identity before being accepted that way.

That's according to the tribe's spiritual leader, Pathfinder (RUSSELL MEANS), who's arrived with his adult daughter, Starfire (MOON BLOODGOOD), and others in hopes of finding a replacement for his role. After their brief visit there, Ghost goes off to settle his dual identity, unaware that a marauding band of Vikings led by Gunnar (CLANCY BROWN) and Ulfar (RALF MOELLER) have arrived to slaughter the young man's adoptive family and friends.

Distraught but angry over that turn of events, Ghost -- eventually with the help of Starfire and others -- sets out to get revenge on the Vikings for what they've done to him, his family, and their people.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
The problem with a great deal of ancient history is that you can't always trust it, or at least the notion that it's one hundred percent accurate. Some of that stems from the record keepers of the time who, purposefully or accidentally, changed bits and pieces of such historical accounts through the recording of such matters via writing or passing it down to their successors via the spoken word.

Then there's the issue of how current historians and others interpret all of the above and sometimes interject their own beliefs or theories while occasionally viewing any or all of that through a modern day prism, thus further diluting the truth.

Of course, historians aren't the only ones guilty of such modernism. In fact, the chronic manipulators of the past are filmmakers, and I'm not talking about documentarians. Instead, I'm referring to those in the "entertainment" part of the biz, where some bending of history, tweaks of the truth, or downright false or completely made up fabrications are done, all in the name of supposedly making the film more enjoyable or entertaining for audiences.

The latter certainly seems to be the case and the cause of all that's wrong with "Pathfinder." A loose remake of a 1987 Best Foreign Language Film nominee of the same name (that I haven't seen but have heard is decent), the film is set half a millennium before Columbus' arrival in the New World.

Fifteen years after being adopted as the lone young survivor of a Viking incursion turned shipwreck, our hero -- played by Karl Urban (often distractingly resembling Brendan Frasier in action-comedy guise) -- finds himself an accepted outsider, part but certainly not full Native American. Thus, when his former countrymen arrive once again for some additional pillaging, he must battle his own kind while avenging the deaths of his adoptive people.

I have no idea if any of that occurred, although I'm probably not off base by surmising it probably didn't, at least exactly as occurs here. And much of that's because the filmmakers take a period tale and apply all sorts of modern movie storytelling conventions to it.

In fact, just like the Vikings raiding the pristine countryside, taking what they want and killing anyone in their way, the filmmakers here have raided the film vaults for story ideas and various genre conventions, killing any chance the film might have in terms of being any good.

I understand the pic isn't intended as a documentary or any sort of cinematic accompaniment for a history class about those early North American days. Nevertheless, if you're going to the trouble to set the film back then (with all of the accompanying production design, sets, and costumes), at least make it feel as if it belongs and exists within that time frame.

After starting off like a combination of "The New World" and "Apocalypto" (with our hero going on the run and then getting revenge on the invaders who've killed his people), the film starts its raiding, with the first cringe-inducing but fall out of your seat funny theft being from any James Bond film opening set on some snowy, downhill slope.

Yes, you read that right. Having been hit in the back, Urban's character ends up falling onto his shield and sliding down a ski slope, uh, pristine mountainside, with Vikings (no, not those of the Tarkenton tribe) grabbing some impromptu sleds and giving chase. Just as might occur in such a 007 flick, they battle on their way down.

Coupled with dialogue that progressively becomes more modern sounding as the film rolls through the projector (or spins off the DVD when this hits the home video market, which shouldn't be long), the film becomes something of an unintentional hoot. That's because it liberally borrows from so many sources -- including but certainly not limited to the aforementioned films along with "Predator," "Lethal Weapon," and even the Bible, etc. -- that I lost count.

All of which might have been fine had director Marcus Nispel - who works from an adaptation of the 1987 film by Laeta Kalogridis -- made all of the action exciting or the story interesting. Unfortunately, the characters are less than engaging, save for Russell Means slightly making his title character interesting. And the kinetic material is so derivative -- not surprising, considering the helmer's previous work has been the remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and a slew of music videos -- that there's no fun to be had, save for trying to name every previous source of "inspiration" for the film's various scenes.

It's so over the top in such regards that it nearly seems intentional, but methinks the irony of "Pathfinder" having that very title is lost on everyone involved in this film as it fails to discover a new way to traverse its well-traveled surroundings. The film rates as a 3 out of 10, just for providing some unexpected and presumably unintentional laughs.




Reviewed April 10, 2007 / Posted April 13, 2007


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