Judge Ryan Keefer thinks that if you've named your film after a sport utility vehicle, there might be some problems.
Two worlds, one war. The ultimate battle begins.
With the surprise success of the battle epic 300 on film and DVD in 2007, someone decided to make Pathfinder in much the same way, using color adjusted film and a lot of slow motion fight sequences. So while the find was released on standard definition, it was released in a slightly delayed high definition Blu-ray release several months later. So was it worth the wait?
Facts of the Case
Laeta Kalogridis (Alexander) wrote the screenplay, which apparently is a remake of the 1987 Norwegian film of the same name. Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)) was the director of this little tale. In it, a man named Ghost (Karl Urban, The Bourne Supremacy) grew up as a Viking boy who was abandoned at an Indian village that was ransacked by some of the grown up Nords. He's raised as an Indian and grows into some prominence within the tribe, though when he discovers that some of his old homies have come to town for more of the ole' rape and pillage, headed by the Viking leader Gunnar (Clancy Brown, The Shawshank Redemption).
Well, I've got to hand it to the folks behind Pathfinder. If they wanted a film to be similar in visual style to 300, they certainly have that. The funny part is that they've also got a film that's empty of any real thought or originality, so, yeah, part two of the mission is certainly accomplished. Honestly, I think all you really need to know about Pathfinder is that it's kind of a cross between Conan the Barbarian and Dances With Wolves, minus a lot of steroid-influenced Schwarzenegger-ian testosterone and Costner-ian acting and storytelling.
Although I do have to admit, a couple of things struck me upon watching the film, the first being that I could have sworn I watched a promotional reel on the making of this film when I was in a theater months ago, and it didn't seem like anything I'd really want to see then, and now, it's not really improved all that much. Secondly, and I could be a little bit daft on this, but when you watch some of the Viking extras in the piece, they almost look like failed GWAR auditions come to life. But overall, there just wasn't anything that really kept me involved in Pathfinder, and its hour and 50 minutes felt like a friggin' eternity from time to time. The ample fight scenes are done in slow motion, a previously used trick. Get a guy in a fish out of water sequence once or twice during a film, another previously used trick, and things just add up one right after another. As the third act unfolds, you can see things coming a country mile away, despite the performances of Urban and Brown to try and sway you otherwise.
I didn't think that an MPEG-2 encoded disc would look as good as some other MPEG-4 discs do, but I was certainly proven wrong after watching the film. The 2.40:1 widescreen presentation looks mighty spiffy. The color palette has been adjusted to employ a lot more of the black and white color palette and dampening the greens and blues of the Vancouver location, so it's kind of like 300 without the green screen. But it's a sharp looking film, to be sure. The DTS HD audio track is also impressive, with well centered dialogue in the front speaker, effective panning and surround activity and the low end subwoofer is active for most of the film. It's a good jaw dropper.
The extras appear to be the same as those found on the standard definition copy of the film with a small exception. The running subtitle track which seems to be found on a lot of recent Fox Blu-ray releases is here, providing the occasional tidbit of information you might not have gathered from the subsequent bonus material. Speaking of the bonus material, Nispel contributes a commentary for the film that isn't too bad. He's passionate about the material and talks to it fairly well, though he has a tendency to sometimes talk when it's not needed. Or to put it in another way, he fills gaps of silence with information that isn't really beneficial to the listener. But he does talk about how the material impacted him personally and what he wanted to accomplish while shooting the film, and all in all it's not a bad commentary. Following that are six small featurettes which, when played together, run about a half hour in length. Frankly, I don't know why they didn't combine them into one piece, or maybe they did so they could put "six featurettes" on the back of the case. They cover the production and the desire to mix some historical accuracy with dramatic liberties, and the stuntwork, costume and set design aspects of the film are also discussed in detail. There's a quick admiration piece on Brown that's pretty cool to see. The deleted scenes, seven of them that last about 10 minutes in total length, are in various stages of completion and don't really add anything to the picture. The trailer completes the disc.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
From a conceptual point of view, it's certainly an interesting idea. Get the Indians and Vikings together, with the Vikings being the New England Patriots and the Indians being the rest of the NFL. I mean, I'm certainly used to the rich white man taking over the land, but the drunk Scandanavians was certainly a new wrinkle on things, even if the story isn't all that new.
Pathfinder might be an interesting concept, but things quite simply are this; if you want to see a live action film with a mix of computer animation on a high definition platform, then by no means should you watch Pathfinder. Go get 300, which at least looks better, has more flash and focus for your buck, and while both look good in Blu-ray, 300 is clearly the winner. Beat a path away from this release.
Guilty as charged, bring in the next case.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Director Marcus Nispel
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