Promotional release poster
|Directed by||Howard McCain|
|Produced by||Barrie M. Osborne
|Written by||Dirk Blackman
|Music by||Geoff Zanelli|
|Edited by||David Dodson|
|Distributed by||The Weinstein Company|
|Release date(s)||July 11, 2008 (Latvia)|
|Running time||115 minutes|
Outlander is a 2008 American science fiction film directed by Howard McCain and starring James Caviezel. The film revolves around a spaceship crashing in Viking-age Norway. Outlander is based loosely on Beowulf, according to the makers of the film.
A spacecraft crash lands in a large lake in Norway, circa 709 AD. From the wreckage emerges Kainan, a soldier, who was transporting (unknowingly aboard the ship) an alien monster, a Moorwen. After Kainan buries his captain he recovers a portable computer from the wreckage and uses it to find that he is on Earth (classified by his people as an "Abandoned Seed Colony") and there are no other interstellar vessels detected nearby. Determined to track down the alien, Kainan has the local language and knowledge painfully downloaded directly into his mind. He also sets a distress beacon to signal a rescue ship.
He begins tracking the Moorwen and discovers it has destroyed a village and killed its inhabitants; the village was in the territory of Gunnar, neighbor to the tribe who will take Kainan in. Kainan is captured by Wulfric, a Norse warrior who dubs him an "outlander", losing his weapon along the way. He is held prisoner in the burg ruled by King Hrothgar. Gradually, as the Norsemen believe his story about "hunting a dragon", and after he saves the King's life, he is accepted into their society. He also forms a bond with a silent orphan, Eric, and the King's daughter Freya.
In flashbacks, Kainan's backstory is revealed, involving an ongoing war in which man and alien both seek revenge for violence committed against them. Kainan's people came to the Moorwens' world to establish a colony, killing the natives and claiming the planet for themselves. As a reward, Kainan's wife and son were given a home in the new colony, while Kainan and the armed forces left for other conquests. Later, one surviving Moorwen slaughters all the colonists, including Kainan's family. Kainan was dispatched to capture the beast and was returning with it to his homeworld when it broke free and caused the crash.
As the Moorwen "dragon" ravages the countryside, Kainan forms an alliance with the warriors. The Moorwen's devastation triggers war between King Gunnar and King Hrothgar. Gunnar assaults Hrothgar's village, but his forces are repulsed. As his men retreat into the forest they are attacked by the Moorwen, forcing them to seek refuge with Hrothgar. Together, the two rival warbands attempt to destroy the Moorwen and its newly born offspring. Many of the Norsemen are killed, including both kings. Most of the Norsemen, now under Wulfric's leadership, leave the village in search of a new home and safety.
With metal salvaged from his crashed spacecraft, Kainan forges new weapons capable of harming the Moorwen. After a harrowing journey, Kainan and the warriors confront the Moorwen in a cave system and defeat the alien monsters. Only Kainan and Freya survive, with Wulfric as he dies transferring leadership to Kainan. Leaving Freya to rejoin her people, Kainan heads back to the lake where he crashed.
Kainan approaches his computer, which is still broadcasting the distress signal. Kainan spots a rescue ship entering the atmosphere, but decides to destroy the beacon with his sword, choosing to remain on Earth. The ship reverses course and returns to space. Kainan is unaware Freya witnessed the entire event. An epilogue explains that Kainan and Freya married and adopted Eric, and Kainan became the new king. Only Freya knew Kainan's "secret" - that the Gods had sent him to the Norsemen "and when the time came for him to return to them, he chose to stay with us instead."
- Jim Caviezel as Kainan, a space traveller
- Sophia Myles as Freya, daughter of Hrothgar
- Jack Huston as Wulfric, nephew of Hrothgar and heir to the title of King of Heorot
- John Hurt as Hrothgar, King of Heorot
- Cliff Saunders as Boromir, Heorot's smith
- Ron Perlman as Gunnar, king of the neighbouring village
- Aidan Devine as Einar
- Bailey Maughan as Eric, a young orphan
Director Howard McCain was inspired to write Outlander in 1992 when he was a student in Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. He had seen an issue of Archaeology magazine that had a rebuilt Viking boat on the cover and conceived of a story based on the epic poem Beowulf. Since a monster in Viking times did not seem convincing to McCain at the time, he shelved the idea until 1998. That year, McCain met Dirk Blackman, an experienced Hollywood screenwriter who studied at Columbia University, who re-designed the story to carry science fiction elements and re-identified the characters to distance them from their Beowulf origins. According to McCain, director Renny Harlin expressed interest in making Outlander at one point. Eventually, Outlander was financed independently to have its effects designed by Weta Workshop and to be filmed at the South Island, New Zealand. Development was a struggle at first, but in 2004, production company Ascendant Pictures and producer Barrie M. Osborne gave McCain and his crew the necessary support to resume.
In May 2005, The Weinstein Company announced the addition of the sci-fi epic Outlander to its distribution slate with Howard McCain directing the film. At the time, actor Karl Urban was in talks to star in the film, which is based on a screenplay written by McCain and Dirk Blackman. In September 2006, James Caviezel was announced to star in Outlander, replacing Urban in the role. Filming was scheduled to begin October 16, 2006 in Halifax and Nine Mile River, Nova Scotia, and to last 10 weeks. Filming was also done at the Bay of Islands, Newfoundland, which was found by a production designer who looked at photos of Newfoundland's west coast after rejecting scouted locations New Zealand and British Columbia. The bay possessed an inlet that simulated part of a fjord for the film. The conceptual design of Outlander was shaped by Iain McCaig, whose Ninth Ray Studios helped set up concept art, storyboarding, animatronics, and set design. Sophia Myles, Ron Perlman, John Hurt, and Jack Huston were cast alongside Caviezel in the film, which wrapped up photography on January 5, 2007 in Halifax and Newfoundland. Costume designer Debra Hanson designed by hand costumes for the main characters using designs from Ninth Ray Studios. She also provided leftover costumes from her previous collaboration, Beowulf & Grendel, to dress the extras. Actor Patrick Stevenson, who plays the superstitious Viking Unferth, studied pagan gods, the Norse god Thor, and runestones for his character.
For the character Kainan, director Howard McCain sought an actor that would be "a person with soul" and convey the character strongly, placing performance at the action part of the character second. The director chose Caviezel to fit the criteria. McCain saw James Caviezel's American accent as Kainan as a way to distance the character from the Vikings, whose actors had European accents. The director chose for Kainan to speak an alien language before adapting to the Vikings' language, which would be spoken in English for film audiences' sake. Old Norse was the alien language selected for Kainan to speak, and James Caviezel was trained to speak the language by a linguistics professor from Iceland. Kainan's opponent, the creature called the Moorwen, was designed by creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos for free for McCain's film. The Moorwen was a play on the word Morlock from H. G. Wells' The Time Machine. The director and the creature designer created the Moorwen to be like an animal, only to be perceived as a monster by those who were threatened. McCain praised Tatopoulos: "He brought the right amount of fierceness, sensuality, the sense of personality and a sentient kind of intelligence to [the Moorwen] that was perfect." The creature was designed to possess bioluminescence, using light to draw its prey.
For the film, McCain constructed a replica Viking village and a replica Viking ship, modeled after the Oseberg ship scouted at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. The ship was deployed at Little Port, Newfoundland and later burned for a scene - the remains are still on display in the community of Lark Harbor Newfoundland. The Viking village itself was built at the Nine Mile farm in Nova Scotia. The crew logged their own trees and hired a logging crew and truck for constructing a parapet 800 feet in length and 20 feet tall. The village took three months to build and included long houses and a hall.
Ray Bennett of the The Hollywood Reporter said about the film, "it's entertaining nonsense with major league special effects, larger-than-life characters and inventive monsters that draw on the 'Aliens' and 'Predator' models, being terrifying but also vaguely sympathetic." 
Derek Elley of Variety said, "script tries to build up a full range of heroic characters in conflict but is let down by workaday dialogue and direction that doesn't conjure any special atmosphere. Only Hurt, who can always be relied on to turn the most basic dialogue metal into something resembling gold, comes close to giving the picture any verbal style. But despite a couple OK action sequences, the first hour largely passes before delivering any serious mano a mano with the mean Moorwen. [...] Color processing has a cold, grungy look in daytime exteriors and a slightly fuzzy, amber-drenched look in interiors. Geoff Zanelli's score is off-the-shelf heroic-action wallpaper. However, production and costume design do sport an impressive authenticity, and effects work does the job in a genre-ish way. Alas, Patrick Tatopoulos' monster simply recalls elements of other, more famous aliens." 
"Outlander" had a limited release on January 23, 2009 at 81 theaters and grossed $59,581 at the U.S. box office in its opening weekend and as of August 2009, it had earned $166,003 in the U.S. and $6,192,098 worldwide, against a reported budget of US$47 million.
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