Some pitches are completely foolproof that you couldn't screw them up if you tried. Vikings versus Native Americans is one of them, so credit where credit's due to director Marcus Nispel for turning Pathfinder into such a yawn. An incredibly loose remake of Nils Gaup's acclaimed 1987 Norwegian film relocated to America centuries before Columbus, it sees Karl Urban as the sole survivor of a previous Viking expedition who was adopted by a local tribe and now has to find out where he really belongs if he is to save them from a new group of unwanted Norse immigrants. The opening discovery of the Vikings wrecked ship is encouragingly atmospheric, but the film doesn't take long to disappoint. The script offers everything you need for a decent action film, but doesn't deliver characters you care about, and unfortunately the film is denied even a charismatic lead to fill the gaps with old-fashioned star power. Karl Urban makes for a particularly bland void at the film's center, playing his entire part like a very shy kid on his first day a school who doesn't really want to be noticed. He's matched by the anonymous villain of the piece. Clancy Brown's Viking is more a costume and a hairstyle with no room for anything else, his subtitled dialogue not adding authenticity (hardly in a priority in a film whose look is inspired by old pulp novel covers and Hells Angels movies) but making him a distant, underdeveloped adversary.
So, everything hinges on the action scenes, but here Nispel offers lots of style but little panache. Backlit swamps, desaturated shorelines and algae green tints ensure that America looks like somewhere you wouldn't want to visit let alone fight for, while the action scenes look designed to be intercut with a particularly bad Heavy Metal group singing about thunder and plunder rather than as scenes in a movie. There's far too much slo-mo, which doesn't make action scenes more exciting but just makes them slow. Not that the film allows you to ever really get into the frequent action scenes. There's little sense of a journey or even of progressing from one scene to another, just a couple of perfunctory shots to get from one scene to the next as quickly as possible, and the fights are treated in the same perfunctory manner. This monotonous pacing ensures there are no highs and that no scene ever carries any real weight or is allowed to build to a climax: they just happen. The result is a surprisingly dreary movie that just drags on, though there is at least one unintentionally hysterically funny underwater DIALOGUE scene that plays so like something out of a Mel Brooks film you almost expect Russell Means to tell Urban to "use the Schwartz." A shame, because this could and should have been a great dumb action movie rather than a long slog to the end credits.
There's a decent selection of extras - deleted scenes, featurettes, audio commentary and trailers - but they don't make the film any less dull.