Pathfinder is one of those movies that landed in theaters, and seemingly disappeared before most of the movie-going public realized it even existed. There’s a good reason for that. It’s a mess, an absolutely atrocious action movie that’s as incomprehensible as it is gory.
This unrated edition of Pathfinder adds eight extra minutes to the film, though where is unspecified. It’s hard to imagine that some of the added footage was talking, as the gore factor here is off the charts even for an R from the MPAA. Heads roll with regularity, blood splatters with every sword swipe, people are tortured, and all in graphic detail.
That should mean this is the greatest “guy” movie ever made. Loads of hulking Vikings rolling through an unfounded US of A hacking away at natives who don’t take their slaughter lightly and fight back sounds perfect. Sadly, an incomprehensible plot that could have been explained in about three lines of dialogue doesn’t carry the equally baffling action.
Karl Urban is the star, a Viking child left in the new world and raised by the native Americans. When the Vikings come calling, he takes it upon himself to wipe them out. Pathfiner finds it necessary to pad this simple story with inane dialogue, completely underdeveloped characters, and editing that feels disjointed. It’s hard to grasp how the characters end up in some of the places they do.
The Vikings are indistinguishable from each other, save for Clancy Brown who reveals his face. The rest are purely fodder to kill off in various ways. They make terrible villains, especially since they’re built up as unstoppable forces when they ride together.
Visual effects are simply awful, running what would otherwise be some beautiful vista shots. The low budget can be painfully obvious, including using simple locales that would be easy to reuse and stock footage in the finale of an avalanche that doesn’t match in the least. Battles are typically small scale, rarely showing more than two or three people battling it out. On top of that, there’s an embarrassing sledding sequence early that makes you wonder if this entire thing is heading into parody territory.
Pathfinder is not only forgettable, it’s downright unwatchable at times. If it weren’t for some admittedly gruesome, spectacular gore, there would be no reason to watch even a minute of this mess. Save your money.
Fox delivers a stunning MPEG-2 transfer for this Blu-ray release. Detail flourishes in every scene, rarely dropping below perfection. Sharpness is never a concern, although some minor artifacting seems to be noticeable on a few long shots. The muted color tones don’t make much of an impact, but the incredibly deep blacks enable this transfer to leap off the screen. Intentional grain, sometimes heavy, can dominate the print but not the point where detail is masked.
Likewise, this DTS-HD Master mix is superb. Every speaker will receive a workout, with excellent use of the entire sound field. The forest scenes (much of the movie) are brought to life with extensive ambient sounds. Action sequences are LFE heavy, assaulting the viewer with every blow from the Viking horde. Horses run from front to back with the audio perfectly tracking their movement. The avalanche, despite the stock footage, feels like it’s happening in your home theater. It’s a spectacular experience, even if the movie isn’t.
Extras are brief, not surprising given the rather dismal box office numbers. Director Marcus Nispel commentates, praising the film while discussing changes from the 1987 original and comic. Seven deleted scenes run about 10 minutes, with an optional commentary. Six featurettes should be one half hour documentary, but are split up anyway. It’s standard fare, including talking heads and film footage that’s included purely to kill time. A pop-up trivia track and trailer round this one off.