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Pathfinder Movie (2007) Review: Gruesome + Dumb Actioner

Pathfinder movie Karl Urban 2007Pathfinder movie (2007) with Karl Urban. Budgeted at a reported $45 million, Marcus Nispel’s U.S.-Canada remake of Nils Gaup’s 1987 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee (Norway) turned out to be a critical and commercial bomb.
  • Pathfinder (2007) movie review: Set in North America in the late first millennium, Marcus Nispel’s action drama is both simple-minded and gratuitously gruesome.

Pathfinder movie review: Excessive gore & infantilized action sequences undermine Marcus Nispel’s period actioner

One man with a big sword challenges a horde of ruthless butchers in Pathfinder, a movie crippled by an excessive amount of gruesome slaughter and idiotic action sequences.

For most of its 98 minutes, this lackluster adventure looks like your typical video game, in which a heroic figure must mow down randomly appearing enemies to advance to the next level.

Pre-Columbian European invaders

Set 600 years before Columbus, Pathfinder tells the story of an abandoned Viking boy adopted by Native Americans and raised as one of them. Fifteen years later, he has grown into a warrior named Ghost (Karl Urban), who vows to destroy anyone seeking to harm his guardians.

Soon after, a troop of barbaric Norsemen drop anchor in North America in an attempt to eradicate its people and thus claim possession of the land. Driven by revenge, Ghost sets out on a perilous mission to kill as many Vikings as he can.

Rotten remake

It’s hard to believe that a movie as monotonous as Pathfinder is based on Nils Gaup’s screenplay for his 1987 Norwegian period action drama of the same name (original title: Ofelas), which received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

But then again, this updated version written by Laeta Kalogridis (she of Oliver Stone’s Alexander) and directed by Marcus Nispel (he of several music videos and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake) heads into a totally different direction.

The crucial downside of this revamped tale is that the filmmakers put no emphasis whatsoever on characters or story development. Consequently, the plot suffers from slumber-inducing simple-mindedness: The Vikings show up and kill, Ghost strikes back and takes his revenge, and before we know it the movie is over.

And why should anyone care?

Neither Ghost nor his close friends carry even a modicum of personality.

Gore galore

Although Pathfinder’s numerous action sequences are generally well made, they also tend to be repetitive.

Even worse, most of what takes place on screen comes down to a free-for-all bloodbath, packed with decapitations and geysers of human blood. In one scene, for instance, we get to watch the Vikings literally tear off the four limbs of an old man.

Legend better left untold

Other than its high degree of violence, Pathfinder has absolutely nothing else to offer.

The sparse dialogue is mostly undermined by the subtitled roaring of the Norsemen, who look and behave like giant orcs from The Lord of the Rings. The few spoken lines in English are cheesy and shallow, and come down to something like: “Run and you may live. Fight them, you will die.”

Historians will probably curse Pathfinder for its inaccurate portrayal of the Vikings, but since the movie makes it clear that its plot is based on an untold legend, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that said legend should have been left untold.

Pathfinder (2007)

Director: Marcus Nispel.

Screenplay: Laeta Kalogridis.
From Nils Gaup’s screenplay for the 1987 Norwegian film Pathfinder / Ofelas.

Cast: Karl Urban. Moon Bloodgood. Russell Means. Jay Tavare. Nathaniel Arcand. Kevin Loring. Ralf Moeller.

Pathfinder Movie (2007) Review: Gruesome + Dumb Actioner” review text © Franck Tabouring; excerpt, image captions, bullet point introduction, and notes/endnotes © Alt Film Guide.


Pathfinder Movie (2007) Review” endnotes

Karl Urban Pathfinder movie image: 20th Century Fox.

Pathfinder Movie (2007) Review: Gruesome + Dumb Actioner” last updated in September 2021.

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