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Marcus Nispel
Karl Urban, Russell Means, Moon Bloodgood, Jay Tavare, Clancy Brown, Nathaniel Arcand, Ralf Moeller, Kevin Loring
Writing Credits:
Laeta Kalogridis, Nils Gaup (1987 screenplay, "Veiviseren")

Two Worlds, One War. The Ultimate Battle Begins.

In an untamed, primordial America, 500 years before Columbus will reach its shores, unfolds an epic battle between love and hate that will change one man's destiny and the future of a nation: Pathfinder.

Box Office:
$26 million.
Opening Weekend
$4.800 million on 1720 screens.
Domestic Gross
$10.232 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 2.35:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 107 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 7/31/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Marcus Nispel
• Seven Deleted Scenes
• Seven Featurettes
• Concept Trailer
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Pathfinder: Unrated (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 5, 2007)

They don’t make a whole lot of Viking movies these days, and the cold reception that greeted 2007’s Pathfinder may demonstrate why. With a poor $9 million gross, audiences avoided it. Can I blame them? Nope, as it offers a pretty tepid, forgettable affair.

Pathfinder takes us back to the 9th century. A boat wrecks on North American shores and leaves only one survivor, a young boy (Burkely Duffield). Despite some objections, the natives take him into their tribe and raise him as one of them. Flashbacks show him to be the son of a cold-hearted Viking warrior who abandoned him when he resisted the use of violence.

The movie leaps ahead 15 years to show Ghost (Karl Urban) as an adult. We learn that his people have always had a “pathfinder” but the current one will soon retire so they need a replacement. Still seen as something of an outsider, Ghost doesn’t receive consideration for the role, and he needs to “find his own path”, a journey that will force him to confront his own demons and past.

While Ghost tries to deal with his issues, a major problem strikes his people. The Vikings return and attempt to slaughter the natives. They largely succeed, and their assault leaves both of Ghost’s adoptive parents dead. Naturally, this upsets him, so Ghost sets out to get revenge. Much bloodshed follows. The rest of the film shows Ghost’s attempts to kill Vikings and deal with a few other plot points.

My only prior experience with the work of director Marcus Nispel came from his 2003 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I actually liked that flick quite a lot, as I felt it improved upon the amateurish schlock of the original.

Unfortunately, Nispel can’t work any magic with the one-dimensional Pathfinder. After vital and authentic-feeling flicks like Apocalypto and The New World, period films that deal with native peoples must live up to a higher standard. Pathfinder can’t approach the necessary level of authenticity – or even feigned realism. Nispel imbues the entire project with a very elevated sense of theatrics and stylization that fail to benefit the story.

Some of the problems come from Nispel’s depiction of violence. He makes the flick needlessly graphic and bloody. All of this feels rather gratuitous, especially since Nispel loves to linger on the gore. It’s not like he depicts the nastiness to make a real impact on the audience. He shows the violence in an almost loving manner, as he clearly likes to focus on the bloody side of things.

Along with this comes the movie’s absurdly stylized nature. It feels like half of the damned flick is in slow motion. If the film ran at normal speed, it’d probably last about an hour! Nispel thinks that these slo-mo shots will increase the drama and intensity, but instead they take away from the action. They become a nuisance since they pop up with such ridiculous frequency.

Perhaps Nispel feels the need to distract us from the mediocrity that infects so much of the movie. Pathfinder offers a very ordinary action/revenge story, and nothing about it elevates the material. Urban seems relentlessly bland as Ghost. He’s simply not an interesting actor. He looks good in these roles but he can’t generate any charisma or personality.

The same goes for the forgettable Pathfinder. It dresses up its tale in period pretenses, but it’s no different than a million revenge movies we’ve already seen. The film fails to develop into anything even remotely special.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B

Pathfinder appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I thought all aspects of this transfer looked terrific.

I certainly failed to detect any problems with sharpness. The movie featured excellent delineation and clarity at all times, with virtually no softness on display. Jagged edges and shimmering created no concerns, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. I also didn’t see any signs of source flaws. Early scenes presented a lot of intentional grain, but those soon cleared up, and the rest of the image came without distractions.

Pathfinder featured an intensely stylized palette. Nary a dynamic hue popped up, as the flick preferred a variety of gray, brown and earthy green tones. This was really a monochromatic affair, as I never noticed any colors beyond those restricted tones. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows seemed full and clear. I found no reason to complain about this very strong image.

I felt the same way about the audio of Pathfinder. This DVD boasted both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. I thought the DTS mix was a little louder than the Dolby audio, but both sounded very similar otherwise.

The soundfields helped create immersive settings. Atmospherics ruled the day, as the natural environments seemed engaging and involving. In addition, the many action sequences managed to provide accurately placed elements that moved smoothly across the speakers. The various pieces combined to form a fine soundscape.

At all times, audio quality appeared excellent. Effects became the most prominent aspect of the tracks and they were solid. Those components appeared accurate and dynamic, as they boasted terrific low-end. Music also showed very nice range and clarity, while speech was concise and crisp. Both soundtracks brought the material to life in a satisfying manner.

As we head to the DVD’s supplements, we start with an audio commentary from director Marcus Nispel. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. He goes over the origins of the project and some story issues, sets and locations, cast and performances, visual elements, influences and inspirations, stunts and action, budgetary issues and working at Fox, and other production topics.

Though Nispel starts slowly, he soon turns this into a pretty good chat. Yeah, the commentary still drags at times, but the director manages to cover the usual subjects well and presents a lively, jovial personality as he does so. Nispel peppers the track with a number of funny stories as he creates an above-average commentary. You have to like a director who refers to one of his actors as a “pussy”, even if it’s clear he’s joking.

Seven Deleted Scenes fill a total of 10 minutes, 15 seconds. These include “Ghost Hunts In the Forest” (1:21), “Ghost Crosses Ice Lake for the First Time and Realizes the Danger” (0:38), “Starfire Tends to Ghost’s Wounds” (1:56), “Jester Follows Ghost and Is Chased Away” (1:30), “Jester Mimics Ghost” (0:56), “Vikings Hold Ghost, Pathfinder and Starfire Hostage” (2:35) and “Pathfinder Counsels Ghost Before the Quartering” (1:17). Each one seems completely superfluous and forgettable; I can’t find a single clip that would have helped the film.

We can watch these clips with or without commentary from Nispel. He provides some information about the scenes and usually – but not always – tells us why he dropped the segments. Nispel throws out a few decent remarks but doesn’t add much to the compilation of clips.

Next we find seven featurettes. We get “The Beginning” (5:12), “The Design” (6:30), “The Build” (5:07), “The Shoot” (5:38), “The Stunts” (5:33), “We Shoot Now! Marcus Nispel on the set of Pathfinder” (2:36) and “Clancy Brown: Cult Hero” (2:38). Through these we see movie snippets, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We hear from Nispel, original 1987 Pathfinder producer John M. Jacobsen, executive producer Bradley Fischer, producers Arnold Messer and Mike Medavoy, co-producer Vincent Oster, concept artist Christopher Shy, director of photography Daniel Pearl, costume designer Renee April, historical blacksmith Tony Swatton, production designer Greg Blair, art director Geoff Wallace, 1st AD Eric Fox Hays, key 2nd AD Robert Duncan, script supervisor Claudia Morgado, and actors Moon Bloodgood, Karl Urban, Clancy Brown, Russell Means, Jay Tavare and Ralf Moeller.

We learn about the film’s origins and script development, the use of Vikings and Native Americans in the tale, and some historical elements. From there we go through visual design and costumes, the concurrent creation of the Pathfinder graphic novel, sets and locations, shooting the flick and Nispel’s attitude, stunts, and a few other film notes.

Each of these featurettes comes as a stand-alone piece, and they act mostly as glitzy promotional affairs. They include a reasonable amount of information, though, and they move at a decent pace. I could live without the constant hard rock in the background and the generally superficial nature, but the programs provide enough meat to make them worth a look.

A Concept Trailer lasts four minutes, 15 seconds. Shot to pitch the flick, this clip gives us a view of what Nispel would want to do with the tale. It’s a cool curiosity to see.

A few ads open the DVD. We get promos for Perfect Creature, Day Watch and Night Watch. The disc also included trailers for Pathfinder, 28 Weeks Later, Wrong Turn 2, Lake Placid 2 and Mr. Brooks.

Maybe Pathfinder deserves some credit as a movie with Vikings, characters we don’t often see on the big screen. However, it does so little right that I find it difficult to heap any praise on it. With its over the top visuals and its dull characters, the movie flops. At least the DVD presents excellent picture and audio along with some good extras. This is a high quality release for a dull movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5454 Stars Number of Votes: 11
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