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</script></div>{/googleAds}Since the benchmarks of Gladiator and Lord of the Rings told filmmakers the contemporary world was ready for the sword and/or sandal epic again, they have been diligently ploughing away and delivering a copious supply of just that. The problem, as with all trends spawned from a surprising hit(s), seems to be a focus on product quantity instead of quality. Some of the most hailed filmmakers of our day have taken a major star or two, dived into this newest of trends, and fallen flat on their well-padded backsides. Nothing has come close to the aforementioned two (or four if you count Lord of the Rings three times)... nothing. In fact, most of these hurried efforts to cash in while the idea is hot are an abysmal waste of time and talent. Pathfinder skids dangerously close to falling into this category, but it does keeps its head above water... barely.

Based extremely loosely on the theory that Vikings in fact wandered the American coastline 600 years before Christopher Columbus, Pathfinder tells the story of an abandoned Viking boy, discarded by his kin and left to die, only to be found by Native Americans and raised as one of their own. Fifteen years pass, and the Vikings return to murder, bludgeon an pillage his adoptive people out of existence. Of course, our hero won't stand for that.

There are attempts within the script to give this a little depth and emotion, but while they are definitely on the right track, it's far too brief. Characterization suffers throughout because of this, with hints of what could be within any given character, but not enough time spent exploring them before the copious blood and guts onslaught(s) begin. The action is frenetic, inventive, spectacular in many instances, but there is far too much of it. The story has little balance, and a lot of important/potentially revealing information that is crammed in all-too brief moments of pause between battle after battle after battle after... you get the idea. There is also a sort of homage to First Blood within the script that turns into a more complex exploration of the dichotomy of our protagonist's two influences - the vengeful side of him, spurring from his Viking past, and the less violent, more resourceful side from his adoptive people. This is the only piece of depth allowed to ferment throughout the film, but again... barely.

The performers in this film are a talented bunch, but - as mentioned above - when speaking and conversation are reduced to minute-long moments of quiet between fighting, hiding, or running, there is little they can do to show us. Karl Urban, who does steely eyed hard-ass characters in his sleep, should switch tempo to something else. His Lords of the Rings mode was in full force here, and the only difference was the colour of his hair. There was an opportunity with this character to go in another direction. Unfortunately, grimacing and looking grave in the aforementioned trilogy and second Bourne film seem to be so ingrained within him, that he knows no other expressions. The interestingly named Moon Goodblood does a good job with the brief moments she has of presenting an intelligent, resourceful, and wise daughter of a chief. And the always dependable Clancy Brown could mail in his solid turn as the evil Viking Leader, Gunnar, but to his credit attempts to infuse this new sword-wielding nasty with some unique qualities.

Director Marcus Nispel (Texas Chainsaw Massacre Remake) is one visually gifted bullhorn wielder. There isn't a single scene in the film that isn't a sumptuous, detail packed, ‘how the Hell did he do that?' experience. When it comes to this type of film, I challenge someone to give the man a better script, and watch the dollars roll in. With the help of D.P Daniel Pearl, this film visually cracks the ceiling of its budget ten-fold. Where he falls short seems to be in getting past the visuals, and grasping pacing, and story with equal aplomb. Should he manage to overcome this in future endeavours, I dare to say another Peter Jackson may well be among us.

As with many films of this ‘so hot' genre, Pathfinder suffers from an over-all lack of attention. Just as Troy and Alexander before it, there are flashes of greatness far too brief ones and the filmmakers seem to get transfixed on certain elements, such as â"No one has told this story like this before!" But while they're fawning over their originality they fall into the all-too-common pitfall of letting other vital elements go... like story or characterisations that will suck us into their â"never seen before' worlds. From a visual and production design standpoint this film is up there with Gladiator, but like it's brothers in failure, Pathfinder doesn't have a heart. What a shame.


DVD Details:

A fair effort on the DVD, from several short featurettes on various aspects of the production, to an enthusiastic commentary from it's director. Though a note to the R1 DVD producers... I am Australian, and am wondering what is this U.S. preoccupation with surrounding 50% of new releases with cardboard slipcases? Save the trees, people we need them!

Screen formats: Widescreen 2.40:1 presentation

Subtitles: English; French

Language and Sound: 5.1 Dolby in English, Spanish and French

Extra Features:

* Commentary -
o With director Marcus Nispel
* Featurettes
o The Beginning
o The Design
o The Build
o The Shoot
o The Stunts
o Marcus Nispel: On Set featurette
o Clancy Brown: Cult Hero featurette
* Trailer - Concept trailer (shot in ONE DAY! amazing!)

Number of discs: - 1 with Slipcase packaging