June 4, 2017
I wanted to like Outlander. I came to it with a certain amount of goodwill, having heard of it years ago and appreciating the elevator pitch concept. Unfortunately goodwill can only do so much to entirely overcome certain deficiencies.
The budget is one deficiency. Every penny appears on the screen, but sadly we seem to be talking not much more than pennies. Casting, for another. Jim Caviezel appears largely disinterested in the entire affair, bored and waiting for the check to clear. I’m not sure he’s anyone’s idea of an action hero, despite his excellent turn in The Count of Monte Cristo. Few of the “vikings” really fit the role. Not even John Hurt could elevate this material. (Though it was good to see Ron Perlman, even briefly.)
As for the material, we appear to have another riff on Beowulf. This one a sci-fi/horror take, with the role of Beowulf filled by a man from outer space (Earth, apparently, an abandoned “seed colony.”) In the script’s favor, it doesn’t attempt a direct one-for-one Beowulf analog;not every element of the story appears. I like some of what the script writers have done here. Though I think they missed an opportunity in not playing up a fatalism versus free-will theme. And I could have done without yet another spurious “we brought it upon ourselves, the monsters are really us” bit of faux-depth. At least the obligatory warrior princess was reasonably enjoyable and as plausible as the rest of the fantasy (have to consider this fantasy — it doesn’t hold up as a viking-era period piece.)
When reviewing a Beowulf riff The 13th Warrior inevitably comes to mind. That is unfortunate, because Outlander is done no favors by the comparison. For all its narrative flaws, Warrior brought us some memorable characters and a couple of terrific action scenes. Outlander offers up some passable action and thrills but is too often let down by the budget.
Still, if you’re willing to approach the flick with a six-pack and low-expectations, I can see my way clear to recommending this.