Thursday, January 11, 2007

PATHFINDER: A Man Called 'Ghost'

PATHFINDER (adventure)
Cast: Karl Urban, Moon Bloodgood, Ken Watanabe, Russell Means and Clancy Brown
Director: Marcus Nispel
Time: 110 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
The Pathfinder Poster
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? A 'Pathfinder', according to the scripters, is a tribal leader of the American natives who has foresight, wisdom, healing powers and leadership. He leads his people in rituals and tribal councils and is held in high regard by even those of the neighbouring tribes.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? Set 600 years before Christopher Columbus founded America, “Pathfinder” is about a Viking boy who is left behind by his clan during an attack on the native tribes of America. The child is abandoned for refusing to slay defenceless children of his own age. This white boy is found by a native squaw who adopts him as her own son. He is nicknamed 'Ghost'.
Fifteen years later, we see Ghost (Karl Urban) as a muscular warrior who is as much at home in the forests as he is with the clans and the tribal leaders. However, he is considered unfit to join the 'brotherhood of warriors' by the tribe's Pathfinder (Russell Means) because he still has 'demons from his past' that he needs to vanquish. These words are not only figurative but prophetic as well because his 'past' is soon to catch up on him when the Vikings return to plunder America again. Ghost, seen as the only one who can use a sword and fight in the style of the Norsemen, returns from a hunting trip to find most of his adoptive tribesmen brutally killed by the Vikings.
Teaming up with the feisty Starfire (Moon Bloodgood), daughter of Pathfinder, Ghost sets out to lead the remaining tribes to safety. Inevitably, however, he must face the nagging problem of his bloodline: whether to accept his Norse heritage and join the invaders or to renounce it and fight for the natives.

HIGHLIGHTS:Pathfinder” reminds us of the 1970 Richard Harris movie, “A Man Called Horse”. However, the natives here are shown as peace-loving people while the European invaders are the brutal and sadistic plunderers who kill for pleasure and pride. The Vikings have a clear advantage over the Indians because they use steel weapons against rudimentary wooden ones. Yes, expect lots of blood and gore as limbs and heads get cut off or ripped apart in what is basically a massacre of the natives.
German director Marcus Nispel purposely keeps the fighting sequences 'blurry' and confusing to reduce the 'gore factor'. His forte, however, is in capturing the scenic landscapes and mountains, especially the 'cliffhanger' sequence that culminates in a spectacular avalanche.

LOWLIGHTS: Except for veteran actor Means and relative newcomer Moon Bloodgood, the cast are unimpressive. Urban looks rather lost in close-ups and emotional scenes, and seems upstaged by Bloodgood most of the time. The scripters have apparently included a romantic subplot for Ghost and Starfire but Nispel seems to have forgotten to provide the sparks to develop it. There is too much concentration on action and chases at the expense of emotional build-up.

THE LOWDOWN: The movie's theme is again about nature versus nurture but we can also see “Pathfinder” as a prelude to the 'atrocities' the other Europeans would inflict on the poor natives.


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