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dir Howard McCain
scr Dirk Blackman, Howard McCain
with James Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, John Hurt, Ron Perlman, Bailey Maughan, John Nelles, James Rogers, Cliff Saunders, Scott Owen, Petra Prazak, Katie Bergin
release US 23.Jan.09, UK 24.Apr.09
08/Canada Weinstein 1h55
Brothers in arms: Huston and Caviezel
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Although the filmmakers bravely attempt to capture some of that Lord of the Rings emotional-epic magic, they fall fairly short of the mark with this rather corny alien-viking hybrid. But the story isn't bad, and the cast is up for it.
When Kainan (Caviezel) crash-lands his spaceship on a lake in Norway circa AD 709, his cargo, a fire-breathing alien monster called a moorwen, escapes and starts ravaging the countryside. The locals are understandably wary of Kainan, who claims to be from a distant island, but he wins the trust of the local king (Hurt) and his daughter Freya (Myles), as well as top warrior Wulfric (Huston). He even helps them team up with their sworn enemy Gunnar (Perlman) to battle the moorwen. But it's not going to be easy.
The film grabs hold mainly because all of the lead characters (including the moorwen) are lashing out in anger against the injustice in their lives, which can only be overcome by reaching out to rivals and uniting in battle. These themes give some subtext to what is otherwise a fairly soapy action romp, complete with muscled he-man heroes, feisty heroines, grizzled war veterans and even a cute orphan boy. The script also has a sharp sense of humour, keeping the characters grounded through wit, irony and misunderstanding.
Caviezel holds the film together with sheer force of square-jawed will, creating strong chemistry with both Huston and Myles. Colourful characters fill every scene, although there's rather a lot of grunting and chest-pounding, plus some badly staged and over-edited action. But this gives the film a kind of goofy charm that undermines its not-always-convincing epic scope. It's too cheesy to be spectacular, but it is rather a lot of fun.
As it continues, the story gets rather ridiculous, but the action gets increasingly vicious and the themes deepen with modern-day political parallels about reaping the violence you sow. Kainan understands the paranoia of this society because he's been a victim as well, but he also knows that he has unleashed this horror both on his own family and on earth. So his efforts to fight it become a quest for redemption in fine storytelling tradition.
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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