Sometimes a movie can have a premise that is sufficient to carry the proceedings. If you then add some quality character actors and ensure that the production values are high, then you can bluff your way to the end credits before the audience realises they're watching something really dumb. Outlander achieves this prodigious feat. It is an incredibly stupid film yet perversely entertaining. It boasts beautiful cinematography, a cast that is more than capable and perfectly acceptable CGI. At times, you feel like the entire production is challenging you to shout out loud quite how dumb the plot is. However the audience blinks first and director Howard McCain gets away with it.
After his spaceship crashes, Kainan (Jim Vaviezel) finds himself the sole survivor of his crew and marooned in Norway circa 709 AD. Furthermore, a dangerous and intelligent beast called Moorwen who was a prisoner aboard his ship, has escaped. While pursuing the creature he is captured by Wulfric (Jack Huston), a Viking warrior and brought before King Hrothgar (John Hurt). His claims that he is hunting "a dragon" are mocked but as the body count grows the Vikings begin to take his story more seriously. After saving the King's life Kainan finds himself accepted by his captors. Can he fashion a suitable weapon to defeat Moorwen who has established a den and is now breeding?
Yes, this is a movie about a spaceman, Vikings and a beast with nasty big pointed teeth. The storyline is predictable and formulaic. Enemies becoming friends, important lessons about life are learned and minor characters die in the finest Red Shirt tradition. There is an arbitrary romantic sub-plot involving the King's daughter Freya (Sophia Myles) and an orphan child who becomes a surrogate for Kainan's own lost family. The dialogue is functional and nothing more, taking the movie from A to B. The action is violent and perfunctory. Yet the movie still works irrespective of its own logical flaws and inherent stupidity.
When a bad movie still proves to be entertaining, it's often comes down to tone and the underlying conviction of those involved with it. I believe that Outlander was made with the genuine goal of entertaining the public. Unlike a movie like Brick Mansions which just oozes contempt for the viewer, Outlander is laughing along with the audience and not at them. It's also better than the other Viking themed action movie Pathfinder, starring Karl Urban, which explored the lofty concept of Vikings versus Native Americans. Outlander also has a modicum of sympathy for the main antagonist, Moorwen. If that angle had been explored further then this may well have been a better movie. As it stands its acceptably crass and is best enjoyed with a beverage. Please note this film may offend Norwegians.