Vikings and aliens, oh my. If these subjects appeal, Outlander will be your kind of movie. It doesn't have much of a plot, it's incoherent in the extreme, the acting is pretty bad and there are heavy helpings of cheese, but for all that, it has a certain charm - the kind that comes from having been made with passion.

Originally, this tale of a man from an advanced spacefaring society who crashlands in 10th century Norway and enlists the help of locals to help him fight his monstrous alien foe was supposed to be a much bigger budget production. With a major studio pulling out at the last minute, it might easily have collapsed altogether, but instead it was scaled down and the cast and crew did what they could. Sets are thus notably limited and we don't see a lot of the monster, but that probably works in its favour - the less we see, the more we fear, is the usual rule.

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There's a Chronicles Of Riddick-like atmosphere to this film, which shamelessly mixes elements of Beowulf (lacking the finesse of The 13th Warrior) with a sort of Spacemen And King Arthur plot that also nods in the direction of Army Of Darkness. Its hero lacks Bruce Campbell's charisma (and chin), but does an adequate job as the angstful ex-soldier trying to reclaim his honour and inadvertently winning the heart of a local woman. There are some nice touches, like the fact he speaks Old Norse before his translator module kicks in and boots him into American English, which suggest a cleverer script than the final editing job has left intact. What remains is a muddle of cliches, but it's well paced and a there's fun to be had if you're willing to laugh along with it.

When reviewing films about Vikings, I always try and take into account what a contemporary audience would have thought, and I have no doubt that they'd have loved this. It sticks remarkably closely to Viking values, especially in its carefully-judged, vaguely homoerotic depictions of brotherhood, with no typical American rivalry-over-a-woman plot glued on. The fighting is a bit poor but there's plenty of dramatic action. If you feel annoyed when you see a man covered in oil rush towards a burning monster, this is not a film for you. If that sounds like fun, you'll find it a delight.

Reviewed on: 24 Apr 2009
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Vikings and spacemen and alien monsters, oh my!
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Director: Howard McCain

Writer: Dirk Blackman, Howard McCain

Starring: James Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, John Hurt, Cliff Saunders, Patrick Stevenson, Aidan Devine, Ron Perlman, Bailey Maughan, John Nelles, James Preston Rogers, Scott Owen, Petra Prazak, Owen Pattison, Matt Cooke

Year: 2008

Runtime: 115 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US, Germany


Glasgow 2009

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If you like this, try:

The 13th Warrior