Who knew that when James Caviezel became the most popular big-screen Jesus of all time he'd have to endure 40 years in the cinematic wilderness afterward? B-movies, indie films that no one sees, it's as if JC is atoning for some Mel Gibson sin or other.
The latest from the always stoic Caviezel is Outlander, one of the more outlandish B-pictures to come out of the Great Movie Mash-up Machine known as The Weinstein Co. It's a Beowulf knock-off about a spaceman who crash lands among Norsemen and helps them fight a dragon. Think of it as Vikings vs. Predators.
In an entertaining first half hour, this man from a world far away plummets into a lake in 8th-century Norway. He sets off his distress beacon, buries a dead comrade, whips out his laser pistol and takes a look around. He stumbles across a burning, empty village and, next thing you know, he's lost his cool gun, has to endure torture and can't seem to get the bloody Vikings to understand that no, he didn't empty that village -- no human did.
Did I mention his distress buoy has this neato-but-painful language-embedding gizmo? Spaceman speaks Norwegian, he does. Because the computer describes Earth as a "seed colony, abandoned" -- the aliens know all about the place.
The Vikings will need to work together to kill this beast, which the "Outlander," who goes by the name "Kainan" (Canaan?) knows all too well. The monster is of alien origin and appears to know the story of Beowulf and Grendel and Grendel's mom, too.
But first, King Rothgar (John Hurt, surprisingly at home in leather) and King Gunnar (Ron Perlman, born to be in B-movies) have to feud; the great warrior and king-in-waiting Wulfric (Jack Huston) has to compete in a game of "shields" with the Outlander; and the fetching princess Freya (Sophia Miles of one of those Underworld movies) must be smitten by the non-Viking now in their midst.
All perfectly silly but treated professionally by all involved. The action is first-rate. The characters are stock types -- the hard-drinking blacksmith who befriends Kainan, the princess as good with a sword as the men, the giant (Perlman) who wields a battle-axe because swords are for sissies. Of course, there's also a tow-headed lad named "Eric" who will someday have a son named "Leif" and discover America. But that's for the sequel.
Co-writer director Howard McCain (he wrote the latest Underworld, which also opens today) does OK by the battles and lends the dialogue just enough Norse saga-speak to make it credible.
"If you truly believe you write the tale of your own life, then the end is up to you."
Palatable to any kid raised on comics, sci-fi and sword and sorcery. But is it enough to bring Jim Caviezel back from the wilderness? Naaaah.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun