Over-the-top, style-over-substance worked for 300. For Pathfinder, it does NOT. Quick, find a path to the exit!
If you thought the Viking Age was uninteresting in that old history textbook, Pathfinder does it one better by actually upping the boring ante. In fact, even ye Old World buffs out there will be disoriented. It's set "600 years before Columbus," when "people had to guard America's shores from marauders." One of those most noble guardsmen was Ghost (Karl Urban). Native Americans happened upon him as a young orphan boy and decided to raise him as one of their own--even though he was never truly accepted due to his unknown ancestry. Fifteen years pass and Ghost, once a frail child, has blossomed into a beast-sized man capable of warding off almost anyone. His size and skill set come in handy when Norse invaders look to raise hell in his village. Armed with horses, swords and thorny helmets, they kill and maim everyone in sight and mostly get away with it. That is, until they mess with the object of Ghost's affection, Starfire (Moon Bloodgood), thereby seriously messing with Ghost. You don't put Ghost in a corner!
Beefcake actors are apparently a dime a dozen these days, and Pathfinder lead Urban does nothing to separate himself from the supporting actors of his own movie, let alone from the aforementioned Hollywood stereotype. Looking like a runway model on steroids, the Lord of the Rings and Bourne Ultimatum star only stands out aesthetically here and is in danger of being pigeonholed and typecast for a long time to come. Unless he can somehow show a different side, Urban will wind up on a long list with the likes of wrestlers-turned-actors who can't act. Thing is, in Pathfinder he can't even manage the uber-virility his character is meant to project. Bloodgood (Eight Below), meanwhile, owner of the best non-porn name in showbiz, holds her own and softens things up in a movie otherwise completely dominated by males. And finally, there's veteran Native American actor Russell Means (Natural Born Killers), who, as the Pathfinder himself, at least lends some desperately needed credibility.
Looking up a director's name and past work isn't a fair way to pre-judge his or her movie, but it may sometimes hint at what you're in for. Take Pathfinder, for example: Director Marcus Nispel's past work includes Texas Chainsaw Massacre and music videos. Massacre was terrible and music videos are stylized; thus we arrive upon Pathfinder, which is terrible and stylized. When parents complain about violence in the movies, this should be their focal point. Nispel, like other offenders, is unable to ever refrain, and beheadings and such, in all their slow-motion glory, resemble fun video games. Not that his lack of morality makes Pathfinder the crap it is, however. That blame rests on his apparent decision that such violence is all moviegoers want to see. And it is perhaps the sheer lack of a story that accentuates how mediocre the violent scenes really are--scenes that are meant to leave us agape in amazement, as if we've never seen a loose eyeball on the screen before. On a (lone) positive note, though, the set design seems up-to-snuff.
Hollywood.com rated this film 1 star.