Based loosely and influenced by the 1987 Norwegian film “Ofelas” (Pathfinder) by Director Nils Gaup, “Ofelas” (which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film) told the tale of a young boy who witnessed the slaughter of his family around 1000 AD, in Northern Scandinavia, and sought vengeance upon his family’s murderers. He is eventually held captive by this warlike tribe and forced him to lead them to the others.
The boy plots to destroy them before they even reach the other camp. Similar to the 1987 film, music video director, Marcus Nispel (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”) directs the 2007, version which follows the same plotline where a young boy who is the son of a powerful Norseman, is left behind by his raiding party. He is cast aside due to his disobedience in slaying a Native American whom they have come to clash in battle. Disgusted with his compassionate son, the Viking father leaves him.
One day, an indigenous woman of the Wampanoag people, discovers the ominous shipwrecked “dragon” ship and sets out to investigate her find. To her surprise, she discovers the little warrior who pulls a sword on her and she screams. Despite being frightened by this sword toting tyke with visions of “who am I” on his mind, she takes him back to her village to the council.
After some discussion, it has been decided that the young boy has “destiny among the people”, and is taken in by the community to be raised in their ways. The Viking child who is called, “Ghost”, though he has been raised in their ways, still feels the emptiness of not knowing who he truly is. His deep rooted hatred for his own kind who left him to die is the fuel and the motivator which pushes this story along.
Karl Urban (Lord of The Rings) plays Ghost who quickly adopts the ways of the people who he now calls his family. By honing his skills to one day prepare to have his bloodlust revenge on the Viking conquerers, he gets his wish and another band of marauders lands along the coastline. Now fully armed with the skills of the sword and the precision of the bow and arrow taught to him, Ghost seeks to protect the woman he adores Starfire (Moon Bloodgood) and is guided by the Pathfinder (played by Russell Means). Historically, around the 10th century, Norsemen ventured forth to seek new stretches of land but did not have the strong foothold as was desired. Settlements were small and shortlived.
The cold, smoky imagery evoked memories of watching Lord of the Rings where at times it seemed Ghost was slaying Orcs instead of Viking raiders. After awhile, the slaughtering, the running and hiding became monotonous. Every Viking warrior looked and acted the same which developed into more of a cartoon sensibility.
Though the character’s primary motivation is discovering his true self or identity and cut and dry vengeance, creating a stronger emotional tie with his new found family ( so we can actually care about them) took a backseat to deception and cunning ways to kill off Vikings #2, 3 and 4, etc. Not nearly as sleek as “300”, for example, Pathfinder does have some moments but they are also shortlived. The movie seems to drag endlessly invariably leading us to the climax and ending which when we arrive…is also dull.
Karl Urban is a fantastic actor but the character isn’t the strongest carrier of the film, it is the faceless, onyx armored and horn clad Vikings (though there is vidence that Viking warriors never wore horned helmets into battle…but that’s neither here nor there) which steal the show here. Menacing and downright vicious to behold, we anxiously await their next appearance. We also await their lines too, spoken in Old Norse, being a huge fan of languages, that was one of the
cool factors for me. It would’ve been nice to also hear Wopanaak language.
In the end, all unfolds in a choppy story which there is a disconnect from one scene to the next.