This is Sparta ... oh, wait, no, it’s not
“Pathfinder” is one of the funniest films of the year. That’s not good news for this attempted action-adventure, which clearly lost its way in its own copious fog.
The setup is good: One of the Viking expeditions to reach North America hundreds of years before Columbus leaves as its only survivor a 10-year-old boy. The child is raised by Indians, who call him “Ghost,” either because of his pale skin or because they know the film will be haunted by cliches from a thousand other movies. Years later, the Norsemen return to exterminate all Indians and only the native-friendly Ghost (Karl Urban) can stop them. Dismemberments ensue.
From this, the filmmakers manage to generate nothing new -- only the same old, tired cinematic language: ethereal white horses, women scared by dead bodies, prophecies to fulfill, and fog. Lots of fog. Seriously, they went a little bananas with the fog. And yet the filmmakers don’t seem to have the foggiest: Visibility is low, risibility is high.
“Pathfinder” jarringly straddles worlds. These Vikings are apparently not from North Atlantic regions but the darkest depths of Mordor, judging from their ornate black armor and malevolent laughter. The dialogue makes furtive stabs at an era-specific tone but pokes into modern register. It does yield such gems as “There are two wolves fighting in every man’s heart -- one is love, one is hate.”
Native Americans may not wolf down the depiction of their forebears as helpless, cowardly and weak. So much for being in tune with nature: They can’t detect a company of armored horsemen charging at them. Thank goodness there’s a circa 900-A.D. Rambo to save them.
Poor Karl Urban. Since the “Lord of the Rings” movies, his path has found the likes of “Doom” and “The Chronicles of Riddick.” The tribe’s leader, or “Pathfinder,” character is played by Russell Means of “The Last of the Mohicans” -- and there’s a mercy-kill moment in the new film that’s a straight steal from “Mohicans.” The women have little more to do than whimper and scream at the many “boo” moments director Marcus Nispel (2003’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”) insists upon.
“Pathfinder” is inspired by an Oscar-nominated 1987 Norwegian film (“Ofelas”) but relocated from Lapland to North America for the Vikings-and-Indians angle. This preposterous version is aimed strictly at teenage boys, with its arterial sprays and mysterious machismo.
This one is an instant “Mystery Science Theatre 3000" classic, ideal for watching on TV with loud friends.
“Pathfinder.” MPAA rating: R for strong brutal violence throughout. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. In general release.