Reviewed by: Michael Karounos
“The Passion of the Christ,” “Deja Vu,” “Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius,” “I Am David,” “Highwaymen,” “The Count of Monte Cristo,” “Frequency”
“Underworld,” “Tristan + Isolde,” “Thunderbirds”
“Shrooms,” “Factory Girl,” “The Garden of Eden”
“Hellboy,” “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”
“V for Vendetta,” “Alien,” “Hellboy”
John Beale, Katie Bergin, Matt Cooke, Aidan Devine, Drakaina, Michael Fox, J. William Grantham, Allyson Haas, Craig Harris, Ricardo Hoyos, Amy Kerr, Ted Ludzik, Bailey Maughan, Liam McNamara, John Nelles, Simon Northwood, Mark A. Owen, Scott Owen, Owen Pattison, Petra Prazak, James Rogers, Todd Sandomirsky, Cliff Saunders, Todd William Schroeder, Colette Stevenson, Patrick Stevenson, Steven Wendland
“Underworld: Rise of the Lycans,” “Perfect Prey” TV movie
|Producer:||The Weinstein Company, Ascendant Pictures, Outlander Productions, Film and Entertainment VIP Medienfonds 4 GmbH and Co. KG, Neishaw Ali, Dirk Blackman, Don Carmody, Brendan Deneen, Christopher Eberts, Philip Elway, Andreas Grosch, Nicole Haeussermann, Jodi Heaston, Kia Jam, Karen Loop, Barrie M. Osborne, Chris Roberts, John Schimmel, Marcus Schöfer|
|Distributor:||The Weinstein Company|
“It destroyed his world. He won’t let it destroy ours.”
The premise of “Outlander” is a familiar one to fans of the Beowulf legend. An outsider comes to a kingdom besieged by a supernatural evil to kill it. In this case, Kainan (James Caviezel) brings the evil himself, crashing his spaceship into a Nordic lake and inadvertently releasing the stow-away monster to terrorize the nearby villages. The movie progresses through the development of character and plot, doing a good job of introducing the love interest, Freya (Sophia Myles), the rival and friend, Wulfric (Jack Huston), and King Rothgar (John Hurt).
The backstory of Kainan’s arrival is that he is a member of an imperializing civilization that invades planets, kills the life on them, and then plants colonies. One of the planets they cleansed was populated by Moorwens, a kind of dragon that is impossibly fast, powerful, and nearly invulnerable. Unfortunately, one of the Moorwens survives and exterminates the colony of women and children who were left behind by the men as they went on another raiding party. The parallel between the Viking culture and the alien raiding culture is clearly drawn and demonstrates that the desire for revenge on the part of Kainan against the Moorwen, and by Wulfric against Gunnar, are irrational responses to a culture of violence. Each must reject his past in his own way: Wulfric by changing his character and Kainan by escaping from his culture. How it benefits him to become part of an even more primitive, blood-thirsty civilization is unclear.
Kainan and Wulfric initially clash because Wulfric’s judgment is clouded by his desire for revenge against Gunnar (Ron Pearlman), the leader of a neighboring tribe. At one point Kainan grabs Wulfric by his manhood and tells him he will never rule until he learns “It’s how you rule your head and heart” that matters. Wulfric represents the element of passion in the movie while Kainan represents reason. A third principle of action is religious as symbolized by the predictable figure of a foolish priest. In a climactic moment that is a clear homage to the naïve priest in “War of the Worlds” (1953), he approaches the Moorwen with an upraised cross chanting a prayer. Needless to say, the Moorwen kills him on the spot. McCain, perhaps revealing his own animus against Christianity, has the Moorwen snake his tale up the priest’s cassock and impale him through the bottom. It is a prolonged and gratuitous moment of slaughter against a symbolic figure that has become standard fare among filmmakers who wish to make a statement against Christianity. In the 2005 movie, “Beowulf and Grendel,” the priest is a slobbering epileptic who speaks nonsense while the witch is powerful and wise.
One of the problems with the movie is that the Moorwen is so powerful that nothing the men do against it can seem believable. This completely undermined the credibility of the film from the standpoint of an action movie. In the genre, the audience has to believe that the hero is somehow more powerful than his nemesis. This is the case in the 2007 “Beowulf” as it is not the case in the 2005 “Beowulf and Grendel.” In this movie, there is no question that Kainan is little more than an insect who lives at the Moorwen’s whim. Indeed, their relationship is more like that in John Gardner’s great novel, Grendel, in which Grendel allows Unferth to live in order to torment him with his impotence. Kainan keeps calling to the Moorwen who merely looks at him and does not kill him.
The movie succeeds as an action movie, but where it disappoints as with the 1999, 2005, and 2007 versions of Grendel is in its revisionist European perspective of what constitutes a hero. The Europeans have rejected their Christian past and are busy trying to assimilate into their Islamic future. The past myths of a Christian hero like Beowulf are occasions to express their guilt that there is no evil, only violence, and that there is no absolute good except pacification.
In the 1999 version, Beowulf says: “Our evil has drawn us together. I’m like you. I’m one of the damned” (http://christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/2000/beowulf.html).
In the 2005 version, Beowulf says, “We’re all killers.”
In the 2007 version, Beowulf says, “We’re all monsters.”
And in the 2008 version, director and writer Howard McCain himself says:
“Personally for that character, it's about a man being reborn and it's about him learning to take responsibility for what some of his actions were in the past. It's kind of an original sin that you find out as the story gets going between him and the monster.” http://www.ugo.com/ugo/html/article/?id=16070§ionId=2
The Original Sin, in a sense, is Christianity’s. Implicitly, Kainan as Beowulf represents the historical Christian figure. He is the one responsible for murdering a race of creatures and he is the one who brings the evil on the Viking peoples. This is one of the premises of the academic and lay followers of Neo-Paganism who document the Christianization of the Scandinavian countries as a kind of holocaust. In other words, the myth of Jesus and Satan is responsible for destroying Nordic culture. In the 2007 version, a character says, “The time of heroes is dead. The Christ God has killed them.” In this film, as in the 2005 version, Christianization is a failure and the Christ-figure, the man from the heavens, is a guilt-ridden killer who must expiate his sins by self-sacrifice. This is probably why the queen’s name is changed to “Freya,” the name of the Norse goddess of beauty. She symbolizes the union between Kainan and Norse mythology as a rejection of Christianity and its mythos.
But these themes will not be apparent to anyone but scholars and viewers at least can enjoy a moderately heroic figure in the person of Kainan, a beautiful princess, and an engaging, if not entirely, satisfying film. In the pantheon of heroes, this Beowulf falls below “Braveheart,” “Maximus,” and “Rob Roy,” but at least he is not the wimp that Gerard Butler was in the 2005 version.
There is no sexuality and the only vulgarity is an “f” word. Recommended with the caveat that it is, afterall, violent.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: None
VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.