Pathfinder (2007) — No, not the SUV

“There are two wolves fighting in every man’s heart. One is love. One is hate.”

Al’s rating: Funny, this doesn’t sound like James Fenimore Cooper…

Al’s review: I don’t know what happened to Vikings. I mean, I say ‘Viking’ what springs to mind? Hagar the Horrible? Fran Tarkenton? Bathory? That’s a pretty crummy legacy (and, admit it, you only listen to Bathory because you think it’s funny). Vikings were bad dudes, man! Those jokers should be footnotes. Instead, images of watered down, bloodthirstless, glassy-eyed dopes in pointy hats have replaced the modern world’s perception of what kind of warriors they really were. What a shame.

There’s a light at the end of this pitiable tunnel, however. From the depths of comicdom emerges a new vision of our unfairly castigated Norsemen in Marcus Nispel’s Pathfinder. The Vikings of Pathfinder will make your hair stand on end. These Vikings would have had Lucky Eddie gutted, quartered, and used as a bludgeon against their enemies. They’re hulking. They’re vicious. They’re absolutely terrifying. And they’re led by Clancy Ever-Loving Brown.

Oh, yes. These are Vikings the way I like ‘em.

Remember the first time you ever saw Darth Vader breaking down the walls of that spaceship in Star Wars? Just a massive black shape that radiated fear and violence. This was someone you run away from. As fast as you can. That’s the aura that every single Viking in Pathfinder exudes — “Get away from me or I will kill you.” For a lot of the film, they’re not really even characters, just alien presences behind heavy beards and masks of steel and bone. And when we do get a closer look? Clancy Ever-Loving Brown. The man projects more sadism in one stare than Rob Zombie has managed to churn out of two feature-length films.

Of course, Vikings are only part of Pathfinder. The other half consists of various Native Americans (Native Canadians? They *are* in Newfoundland), which we can just lump together under the name Viking Fodder, and Karl Urban, which we can call The Guy Who Got Higher Billing Than The Vikings.

Urban is Ghost, a Norse child who was left behind from a previous Viking expedition fifteen years before and has grown up among the Viking Fodder. Now that the Vikings have returned to tear the roof off this sucker, it quickly becomes apparent that only Karl and a select group of sidekicks have the mad skillz necessary to go The Hunted on everyone and save North America.

The movie, unfortunately, falls down a bit here. The whole ‘booby-trapping the woods’ bit seems to drift without warning between John Rambo and Chief Chirpa of the Ewoks, and about two-thirds of the way through, the entire pace nosedives to Gigi the Tree Sloth speeds. There’s also some other supposedly important things going on that I didn’t pay much attention to, something about Ghost finding his place stuck in between two cultures and a forbidden romance and bunch of hullabaloo about a pathfinder.

Don’t worry, you’re not gonna want to watch this movie for any of that stuff anyway. Watch it for the Vikings. Watch it for Clancy Ever-Loving Brown. Study them, let them sear themselves into your memory and allow those thoughts of horrifyingly blood-spattered Viking mayhem cushion you from any speed bumps that slow the ride.

Seriously, though, I have no illusions about Pathfinder. I don’t expect to see its name bandied about come awards season. I don’t really imagine the DVD will do anything but take up space in the ‘Action’ section of Best Buy and perhaps attract a family of dust mites that will live happily in between the cases and spawn generations of little dust mites that will carry on the family name. But I do have a dream for this movie. I’d like to look back in ten years when the world is caught up in the cultural zeitgeist of the Neo-Viking revolution, and pinpoint this movie as its’ genesis: the moment when Vikings stood tall and began to re-assume their rightful position as leaders of the free world! Say it with me now: Hail Ragnar! And hail Ragnar’s beard!

Didja notice?

  • Clancy Ever-Loving Brown? Good, just checking.
  • The guy who loses the top of his head?
  • The guy sewing up his eye socket?
  • Hypothermia? Walk it off, man!
  • You never see Indians with beards. Why is that?
  • An Indian movie without Wes Studi? Blasphemy!

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