Monday, October 12, 2009

Outlander (Part I)

To be fair, I'm turning into a cantankerous old coot when it comes to my opinions on movies ("Back in my day, we had to composite our special effects optically, uphill both ways!"), but there's something very refreshing about Outlander's straight-forward, earnest approach to its Alien meets Beowulf story.

Its pleasures are simple yet satisfying. The filmmakers judiciously ration the monster's screen time until the final act -- a rarity among rarities these days -- leaving time for the plot to steadily build and for the characters to grow. Jim Caviezel (Jesus) makes a truly awesome action hero, yet the character never feels too much like an action hero, thanks to his performance. For an "A-" movie (a film that either had too much talent or money to be truly "B"), the noteworthy cast is surprisingly above par, and without a single actor just showing up for their paycheck.

While the script stays pretty close to both its obvious inspirations, it plays with conventions just enough to feel fresh -- especially with the romantic lead (Sophia Myles), who gets to be both the damsel in distress and a kicker of asses. And the writers do an excellent job of creating tension between John Hurt and Ron Perlman's kingdoms without ever vilifying either culture. Oddly enough, the writers try to do this with Caviezel's (Jesus's) man from space and the monster he brought with him...

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