Most of you won’t remember Pathfinder. It was released quickly and silently into theaters in the spring amid much more publicized movies such as 300 and Grindhouse. It got lost in the shuffle and made its way humbly to DVD about a month ago. But really, Pathfinder deserved that.
See, it’s such a straight-to-DVD movie. Nothing about it is all that professional. The biggest names in it are Karl Urban (Xena, Lord of the Rings) and Clancy Brown (LOST, Carnivale, almost every animated Superman property since the mid 90s): two names that no one but the nerdiest, most genre-hungry among us would recognize. That’s because 90% of the other actors in this film are unknown Native Americans or nameless stuntmen. Still a smidgen more star power than 300, though. Seriously, who had heard of Gerard Butler or that Brazilian guy from LOST before then?
If there’s a reason I keep bringing up 300, it’s because these movies share a similar thread. The story of Pathfinder is that a Viking ship crashed upon the rocks of a North American shore and some kindly natives take in the only surviving crewman, a young boy they name Ghost (because of his skin lol). He grows up into Karl Urban who gets lots of loving shots of himself shirtless and travels with his tribe to visit a shaman who has the title “Pathfinder” (what this entails I have no idea) and he macks on a hot young dish named Moon Bloodgood. Of course, this was not meant to last as yet more Vikings arrive and generally kill everyone Ghost loves, including his adoptive mother. Enraged, he teams back up with the nearby surviving village and attempts to get the rest of the natives to safety while taking sweet, sweet revenge on the Vikings.
Obviously the similarities between this and 300 are that they are both action movies set in olden times and featuring lots of machismo and scantily-clad men. Unfortunately, while 300 takes this too far, Pathfinder doesn’t take it far enough. While Pathfinder SHOULD be a blood-soaked rip-roaring thrill ride, it unfortunately seems to think it can ascend towards legitimacy by building character and plot. This is impossible since the artistry behind this movie is only a notch above made-for-TV and the actors are largely just pulled from a stable of actors that only get roles when someone wants to do a Native American movie. I mean, I’m glad they’re getting work, but they’re all amateurs. Watching them during the interminable first act is dreadful and is not helped at all by an awkward, bland script. Throw in a tacked-on romance plot and blehhhh. An example of this awesome writing:
Pathfinder: You have become the Pathfinder for the Dragon People. Good!
Ghost: I’m dying.
Pathfinder: Don’t complain to me about it!
Though the blood flies quite well during the action, it’s all fairly rudimentary and unimaginative, doing nothing to earn its “UNRATED” tagline (seriously, all directors have to do to get an unrated DVD is to… NOT RATE IT). Seriously, although I rip on 300 for using its slow-mo/fast-forward trick ad nauseam, at least it gave it a unique gimmick. There’s nothing unique here at all, and it’s all the worse knowing that they probably made this movie with $5, spit and a prayer.
Karl Urban is okay and of course Clancy Brown does menace to a T, but aside from that, there’s not a whole lot to recommend about this movie. The titular Pathfinder is your general wise old shaman with some bits of winking sarcasm thrown in, but it doesn’t do much to endear him. Instead it makes his silly dream visitations to Ghost interminable. And for being only around 90 minutes, the movie seems to last forever. This shouldn’t happen! And don’t get me started on the myriad of plot holes and historical inaccuracies in the film. Why is Ghost SHAKING HANDS? Isn’t that a European custom that doesn’t get started for hundreds of more years?!?!!?
All in all, unless you’ve got a fetish for Native Americans, Vikings or shirtless Karl Urban, don’t bother watching this heap. And even if you do, please reconsider!