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Anyone who's ever wished the cheesy, heavy metal videos of the '80s-those featuring strange Norse imagery, gray swampy settings, and a liberal smattering of goat skulls-could be expanded into a feature-length film is going to be very, very happy with Pathfinder. Anyone else who spends $8 to see this cesspool of carnage and chaos is going to be very, very sad.
Half a century before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, Vikings stumbled upon the shores of North America and proceeded to do what Vikings do best-kill, pillage, and create general mayhem. Then suddenly, they left. Pathfinder tries to provide an answer-albeit a bloody and ridiculous one-for where and why they went.
Rated R for graphic violence, the film rips off everyone from Rambo to Pocahontas to tell its story about a lost little Viking boy who becomes the hope of noble savages all across the New World. After refusing to slaughter Native-American children with the rest of his hairy brood, young Ghost (Karl Urban) is left behind to fend for himself. Luckily, a good-hearted Indian mother adopts him so that, 15 years later when the horned madmen return, he can become the champion to those he would not kill.
Thanks to the hunted-turning-tables-on-the-hunters motif, some critics have compared Pathfinder to last year's Apocalypto. But while it does seem to do some clumsy pilfering from that film as well, it has none of Apocalypto's energy or finesse. Where Apocalypto enabled us to identify with characters from strange cultures with strange tongues, Pathfinder goes the opposite direction. The main characters may speak English, but they seem as weird and distant as the ancient Mayan language.
Without a relatable or sympathetic character in its lineup, Pathfinder is a blunt object designed to beat the audience over the head with gore until even the most sensitive viewer is left yawning at the ugliness.