DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Jennie Kermode's film review of Outlander

Usually with audio commentaries the more people involved the more messy it gets. This is an exception to the rule. Two producers and two writers, one of whom is the director, don’t talk over each other, don’t show off, don’t make bad jokes and confess to stuff that others might be embarrassed to admit, such as what was faked and what was not, how pushed for cash they were and how Jack Huston carried on after he broke his shoulder. Their honesty appears perfectly natural and when they admit to taking liberties they don’t apologise so much as revel in them. When someone dubs these Vikings “7th century Hells Angels,” he’s admitting in so many words that Outlander is about entertainment and nothing to do with Norse history. If they used palm leaves to thatch houses, because it was easier, who cares?. Palm trees in Norway? Why not?

When the money failed to materialise, expensive plans for a New Zealand shoot went out the window. Instead they chose Nova Scotia. In the winter. You have to admire the innovation of the creative team and the courage of the actors, starting at 4am in freezing conditions, coping with 30 set ups, or more, in a 16-hour day. Jim Caviezel looks wound up like a tight spring, but the others are more relaxed, especially Ron Perlman, who calls himself Gunnar Goldstein, “the first Jewish Viking.” Making a large scale horror action picture on a shoestring means compromises – see Deleted Scenes for the good stuff that never made it to the screen– which affects the shape and effectiveness of the plotline. On a 50-day schedule the first casualty is a decent back story, which leaves the audience confused much of the time and probably not picking up the references to Jaws, Close Encounters, Alien and War Of The Worlds, amongst others.

Copy picture

The Making Of featurette continues talky-talky with the same guys from the commentary, a clutch of actors and a few of the specialist crew, particularly Patrick Tatopoulos (“I like to do creatures with an element of elegance”), the visual consultant and monster maker. Sophia Myles, who plays the king’s daughter like a Captain of Fencing at Roedean, admits, “I’m a weed in real life,” in true self-deprecating public school style. After reading the script John Hurt came to the conclusion that “this will be my last opportunity to play a Viking” and so accepted the role of the king. Caviezel, our space hero from the future, is predictably more serious - “It’s not a Viking film. It’s not a sci-fi film. There is a deeper meaning in this.” Could have fooled me…

Deleted Scenes are packed to bursting – 14 in all – with important info, like the Viking funeral, which explains Hurt and Huston’s relationship that originally opened the film. Animatics has seven sequences of storyboard animation and the Visual Effects Tests are more sophisticated versions of a similar concept.

Someone has made an effort with these DVD extras, which make them well worth the watch/listen.

Reviewed on: 04 Sep 2009
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Outlander packshot
Vikings and spacemen and alien monsters, oh my!
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Product Code: MP755D

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35:1

Sound: Dolby Digital

Extras: Audio commentary; Making Of featurette; deleted scenes; Animatics; visual effects tests

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