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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Pathfinder: Unrated (Blu-ray)
Pathfinder: Unrated (Blu-ray)
Fox // Unrated // November 20, 2007 // Region A
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Don Houston | posted December 30, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Background: Most of us action fans are pretty forgiving when it comes to mindless violence in our movies, some even going so far as to seek it out at all costs. There exists a number of genre flicks that have achieved cult status on body counts alone but an added bonus is to have laughably bad dialogue and plots too. Well, with so many of us dedicated to getting our fix of schlocky crap, every once in awhile comes a movie that even we can't embrace, this time in the form of Pathfinder: Unrated, a movie claiming to be based on a legend of a man who fought off the Viking invasion of North America; you know, the one that never took place...ever!

Movie: Pathfinder: Unrated is a confusing little flick that is set back in the Dark Ages circa around the time when Beowulf was credited as having been written. The setting is the icy North American continent where a contingent of Vikings have landed and are actively destroying villages of peaceful Indians that live as one with the Earth around them. One of the Indians looks mighty familiar to me, a white guy that I'd mistake for porn performer Nick Manning even up close and personal, and is shown as an outcast to the tribe he lives with. He wears their general manner of attire but they shun him all the same as being "different", exactly how different being displayed in a series of flashbacks of his wayward youth. Apparently, he was taken along with a previous raiding party as a rite of passage to manhood along with his warrior father. They were in the midst of scores of natives as they were slaughtering them with the greatest of ease when Dad wanted junior to finish one of the helpless Indians off. Finding the killing of indigenous peoples to be offensive to his politically correct mannerisms, the boy shuns the idea and is beaten with a lash for his troubles. The raiding party leaves him to the wilderness to die since the warrior in question has also disowned him as any kin of his. Needless to say, the loveable Indians take him in and shelter him, showing some minor glimpses into his life along the way with his adoptive parents loving him with all their hearts. Then one day years later, the Vikings return to wreck havoc on the natives and the slaughter begins anew.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, you've probably been the victim of a bad dream or something. See, the boy's name becomes Ghost (Karl Urban) and while he has been banned by his adoptive people from hunting and otherwise not included in any manly rituals of passage, he can somehow channel the Viking rage that lives deep within him. Exactly how the passive little boy becomes a fierce hunter is left to the imagination of the viewer but he is soon defending his adoptive people with a vengeance, picking up a sword and carving them up as though it were even possible. He's about a third the size of the invaders, barely dressed at all compared to their armored figures, and vastly outnumbered by the warriors of legend yet none of this matters in his quest for justice. His brethren shoot arrows that bounce off the Viking armor and attack as though they were a bunch of squaws on maternity leave but Ghost maims their leader and evades the trained trackers like his name would indicate (hint, no one is a "ghost" in the snow, those footprints we all leave pointing us out like a neon sign).

The gore continues as Ghost mounts a guerilla war against the Vikings, resulting in his love, exotic Moon Bloodgood who looks more European than most in the movie, to fight by his side under the name Starfire. Joining the two is the titular Pathfinder played by perennial Indian Russell Means who spouts off mystical gibberish that would have been right at home in the Billy Jack movies, though most of this show seemed to be a nod to titles like Fire & Ice; just without the meaningful plot (by comparison at least). The first half of the movie is then dedicated to this vengeful war where the Vikings rape, pillage, and hunt down Ghost while he uses all sorts of means to avoid capture (including, but not limited too, a James Bond-ish sled chase that made me wince and howl with unintentional laughter all at the same time. The movie then switched gears after his tormentors, led by a heavily made up Clancy Brown, catch Starfire and Ghost; forcing the two to lead the tribe to the hiding Indians. As expected, the body count of Vikings is such that they are facing the law of diminishing returns in their silly quest to eradicate all the Indians in North America since three Viking longships only hold a small number of the warriors. The war of attrition forces the Vikings to keep the pair on a relatively short leash which ultimately proves to be their downfall, the idea being that Ghost tricked them into doing so making another stretch of the imagination necessary.

Okay, whoever came up with the idea for this one needs to be sent packing to do some research on both the Native American Indians of the Northeast as well as the Vikings of old. I'm not talking about a bit of Hollywood mojo used to distort the facts but we're talking wholesale historical re-writes of, if you'll forgive the pun, epic proportions. The Vikings here were not taking slaves or finding anything notable of value to finance their quest and the leadership was so piss poor that the real Vikings would have graciously removed the head of their leader long before their numbers were whittled down so drastically. I know a movie like this is supposed to appeal to the lowest common denominator crowd that is already drunk off their ass when the disc is set in motion but aside from the poorly contrived fighting scenes that paled in comparison to most movies these days (even the low budget types), the story would have worked better without using Icelandic for the Vikings and a mixture of American English for the natives; technically, no speaking at all would have worked better.

As my friends point out in their reviews, this movie is so bad that it isn't even laughably bad as much as "give me my money back or I'll go Viking on your ass" bad. To those who claim the editing and fight sequences are anything but lame, I implore you to join our forums and ask for better examples of modern movie fighting to satiate your own bloodlust since this went beyond fake. The phony mystical bullshit was such that only the least educated among us will find it at all interesting and the only thing I thought stood out here was the gorgeous cinematography of the landscapes as shown on the high definition blue ray format. So, if you've made it this far into the review, congratulations on finding a title I can easily, without reservation, label as a Skip It.

Picture: Pathfinder: Unrated was presented in the original 2.4:1 widescreen color as shot by director Marcus Nispel and encoded on the blue ray format using the backwards MPEG-2 codec (though at a pretty high bitrate). The fleshtones looked real and the 1080p resolution sure didn't hurt the visuals but there was a fair amount of grain and video noise during some of the darker scenes, the compression artifacts better than the SD version from what I've heard. The use of slow motion marred the impact of the visuals though since the movie did not appear to be properly set up to take advantage of the special effect with the resolution lost during such moments taking on a near 300 look to it. The effects in general were not typically a big deal but again, the sweeping landscapes looked so good compared to the claustrophobic portions of the films scenes where a variety of issues interfered with the director making the best use of the cast. In all then, this is not a great flick to use to showcase your high end home theatre with but it did have some fine moments for such a horrid little turd of a flick.

Sound: The audio offered a 5.1 DTS-HD English track as the primary track using a lossless format to enhance the score and vocals. That the vocals were typically in Icelandic is another matter altogether but the mix of the score, the effects and the use of the entire headspace of the home theater was a nice touch. The rears would activate not just during battles or chases but during more mundane moments too and the subwoofer went crazy when called for to provide some booming but tight bass as Ghost and his enemies tore into one another. There were times when the impact could have been greater with something less powerful but the equation of the day appeared to be "loud=better" more often than not. The other tracks were 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround in Spanish or French with a spot check of them showing the qualitative differences between them and the DTS track by a wide margin. The subtitles were for all three languages as well as Cantonese and Korean; easy to read if slightly different than what was said on the screen and the timing off enough to notice.

Extras: Most of the time on movies like this, I'm happy to find a trailer for the movie as the sole extra but I was surprised to see a lengthy bit of material to go through. The first extra was a director's commentary that I listened to primarily while researching the movie and writing this review. It was substantially more involving then the movie itself and I imagine that had he been joined by the writers, I'd have had to consider elevating the rating a notch though his naiveté struck me as problematic to say the least. He really thought he was making something special and I couldn't help but wonder how isolated from the rest of humanity he must have been to seriously believe it. He did explain a lot of the story better than the movie itself did, a testament to his hindsight that he knew how poorly some aspects fared on their own but never did anything to fix them. The director then provided some optional commentary on a series of unfinished deleted scenes of zero merit where he at least showed that he had a clue about some material that did not fit his vision; unfortunately truncated before releasing the movie itself which could have been okay sans the dialogue and about two thirds of the footage included. That was followed by seven features of varying merit on the production of the movie and the marketing surrounding it like the comic book it spawned (the movie reminded me of a poorly rendered comic book handled by a single artist on a drunken binge); each lasting a handful of minutes at best, including: The Beginning, The Design, The Build, The Shoot, The Stunts, and a short tribute to Clancy Brown as well as a bit titled The Path Revealed: Secrets on Screen for the special effects guys to take a bow. They were okay but never really deep enough to develop much of a following for me. There was also a trailer for the movie that looked better then the resulting movie, always making me wonder how some gifted editor can shine up a series of clips to make a movie look good for a few minutes.

Final Thoughts: Pathfinder: Unrated was about as bad a movie as you can get without delving into the territory of being "so bad it's good". The violence was off the charts but handled so lackadaisically that it gave the same impact as a low end Kung Fu movie, complete with poor dubbing. The idea of Vikings trying a scorched earth policy on all of North America against so vast a plain and numerically superior foe for no real reason at all was a lame basis for a movie but the execution of the tiny kernel of potential this one had was squandered endlessly given the technical prowess working to make it happen. Ultimately, if you're looking for a slasher flick devoid of reason, wit, and all the things many of us appreciate about direct to video movies these days, perhaps Pathfinder: Unrated in the blue ray format will appeal to you more than it did to me or others I know. Just make sure you rent or have something better on hand to carry on with after your friends start to belittle your choice of movie, this one being a prime candidate for a revived MST3K project if I ever saw one.

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