Outlander (film)

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Not to be confused with Outland (film).
Promotional release poster
Directed by Howard McCain
Produced by Barrie M. Osborne
Christopher Roberts
Written by Dirk Blackman
Howard McCain
Starring James Caviezel
Sophia Myles
Jack Huston
Ron Perlman
John Hurt
Music by Geoff Zanelli
Cinematography Pierre Gill
Edited by David Dodson
Distributed by The Weinstein Company
Release dates
  • July 11, 2008 (2008-07-11) (Latvia)
Running time
115 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $47 million[1]
Box office $7,033,683[2]

Outlander is a 2008 American science fiction action film directed by Howard McCain and starring James Caviezel. The plot is loosely based on Beowulf, adapted to a science-fiction backstory involving a spaceship crashing in Iron Age Norway. The film was a box-office failure, grossing USD 7 million compared to a budget estimated at USD 47 million.


A spacecraft crashes in a lake in Vendel-era Norway. Two human-like aliens emerge, one fatally wounded. The remaining alien retrieves equipment from the ship, including a weapon, a distress beacon, and a device which downloads Norwegian language and culture directly into his brain. As he explores the area, he falls and loses his weapon. Soon after, he is captured by a group of warriors lead by a local chieftain, Wulfric.

Wulfric takes him to his tribe. King Hrothgar, who has grown old intends to make Wulfric the next king and marry him to his daughter, Freya. Hrothgar learns that a tribe nearby, under the rule of Gunnar, fell victim to a vicious attack which left behind no bodies. Gunnar was away on a trading trip, and will likely assume it was Wulfric's doing, as Wulfric's father had a feud with Gunnar.

Wulfric interrogates the alien, addressing him as "outlander". The outlander identifies himself as Kainan, only vaguely mentions his origin, and claims to be hunting a "dragon." Scoffing at the tale, Wulfric leaves him chained to the wall. Freya treats Kainan's wounds. That night, the tribe is attacked by an unseen creature, which kills several men and escapes. Wulfric asks Kainan of the creature, and Kainan calls it the "Moorwen", a predatory creature which caused his ship to crash and now will hunt men and animals alike.

A party is formed to follow the Moorwen's trail, accompanied by Kainan. They arrive at a cave and are attacked by a gigantic bear, which catches Hrothgar off guard. Kainan seizes a sword and kills the bear, saving Hrothgar's life. Believing they have slain the mysterious beast, the party returns triumphantly, and now treats Kainan as part of the tribe.

Gunnar and his men show up at the gate and proceed to attack, angry at the deaths of his villagers. They furiously leave after Gunnar angrily accuses Hrothgar's tribe of killing his own and not even leaving the bodies of his wife and son. They soon return pursued by the Moorwen. Wulfric believes it to be a trick and orders archers to shoot Gunnar's men. Kainan realizes that they're being attacked by the Moorwen and stops Wulfric from shooting Gunnar. Hrothgar orders the gate to be opened as Kainan hastily opens it in order to save Gunnar and his remaining men. Wulfric and Hrothgar witness the Moorwen devouring a man from atop an archer's post. Against Wulfric's protest, Hrothgar listens to Kainan and agrees to his plan to build a trap to kill the beast. They build a huge pit just inside the village entrance, fill it with whale oil and leave wooden shields on the surface.

Freya becomes increasingly attracted to Kainan, who remains distant due to survivor's guilt. Eventually, he explains to her (in familiar terms) of the Moorwen's origin. Kainan's people invaded its land, slaughtered its kind and built a colony there. This Moorwen, now the last of its kind, massacred everyone in the colony, including Kainan's wife and child. When his ship landed to bring back the bodies for burial, the Moorwen sneaked onboard and later caused the ship to crash. After listening to Kainan's tale Freya gives him an heirloom sword saying she was told that she would know what man to give it to.

The preparation is completed. Kainan and Wulfric stand outside the gate to lure the Moorwen in. When it pursues them, they cross the oil pit by running on the shields. The Moorwen falls into the pit, and the oil is set on fire. However, it bursts out of the pit, kills several people, including Gunnar, then escapes. Meanwhile, an offspring of the Moorwen sneaks into the hall where the women and children were hiding. The boy that Kainan had begun looking after alerts Freya to the offspring's presence. Hrothgar is killed by it as the women and children escape.

Devastated by the loss, members of the tribe begin leaving. Kainan persuades Wulfric to stand his ground and fight. Since the King's sword was broken in the fight, the group realizes they need better weapons in order to kill the Moorwen. Kainan, Wulfric and Freya returns to the lake where Kainan's ship crashed to retrieve fragments of the ship's hull. However, when Kainan is underwater getting the fragments the Moorwen's offspring swims by startling him. As he swims out to see where it went Freya's coat floats down to him. Panicking, Kainan swims to the surface and discovers the boat they came on is destroyed with only Wulfric clinging to pieces of it. Kainan looks around only to realize Freya has been taken by the young Moorwen. Both Kainan and Wulfric return to the village with the fragments of Kainan's ship. They forge several weapons from the metal and track the Moorwen through the village's well to its lair.

Freya awakens in the Moorwen's lair in a pile of half-eaten bodies. The young Moorwen is eating one of the bodies when she wakes up and soon attempts to attack her before becoming distracted by the sound of Kainan's group and running off. It catches one of the group members and devours him alive. After a failed ambush more members of the group are killed and the young Moorwen is injured. Wulfric cries out after comforting a dying fellow warrior and Freya hears him. She calls out to Kainan but ends up attracting the now blind, young Moorwen. Kainan and Wulfric find Freya as she attempts to escape the young Moorwen. After tricking it, Freya enables Kainan to kill the young Moorwen. As they scale a waterfall Freya almost falls to her death as the adult Moorwen attacks. It snatches Wulfric in its mouth who then begins stabbing it in the eye before being tossed at Kainan. The Moorwen and Kainan battle amongst the falling water until tumbling to a cliff's edge. Kainan slices the creature's arm off sending it to its death. Freya and Kainan return to Wulfric's side as he is dying. He tells Kainan that if he could have lived they would've been friends, which Kainan states that they are friends. Wulfric then dies.

Freya and Kainan scale the cliff and when they reach the top they begin calling out to the tribe members who remained above ground. Kainan tells Freya he has to do something and to wait for the others. He kisses her before taking off to the lake where his ship crashed. Night falls as Kainan retrieves some items from his ship and says goodbye to his wife. He then heads to where he placed his distress beacon. Freya watches as a rescue ship begins to descend and Kainan destroys the beacon, deciding to stay with the Vikings. The rescue ship ascends to the stars without Kainan. Wulfric receives a Vikings funeral pyre as Kainan becomes king. Freya believes Kainan to be sent from the gods, becomes his wife and they adopt the boy that Kainan began looking after.


In 1998, director McCain met screenwriter Dirk Blackman, who re-designed the a story originally written by McCain in 1992.[3]

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.[4]

In May 2005, The Weinstein Company announced the addition of the project 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 was based on a screenplay written by McCain and Dirk Blackman.[5] 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.[6] Filming was also done at the Bay of Islands, Newfoundland, which was chosen 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.[7]

The conceptual design of Outlander was shaped by Iain McCaig, whose Ninth Ray Studios helped set up concept art, storyboarding, animatronics, and set design.[4] 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.[8]

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.[4]

For the character Kainan, director Howard McCain sought an actor who would be "a person with soul" and convey the character strongly, with actual performance of secondary importance. The director chose James Caviezel to fit these criteria. McCain saw Caviezel's American accent as a way to distance Kainan's character from the Vikings, whose actors had European accents.

Kainan's opponent, the creature called the Moorwen, was designed by creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos for free for the film. "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 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.[4]

For the film, McCain constructed a replica Viking village and ship, modeled after the Oseberg ship scouted at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. The ship was deployed at Little Port, Newfoundland and was later burned for a scene. Its remains are still on display in the community of Lark Harbor, Newfoundland. The Viking village 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 long and 20 feet tall. The village took three months to build.[4]



Critical reception[edit]

The film received mixed reviews. It has a rating of 40 out of 100 on the website Metacritic, which indicates "mixed or average", based on 11 reviews.[9]

Ray Bennett of The Hollywood Reporter said, "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." [10]

Derek Elley of Variety said that the "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."[11]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 38% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on sixty reviews.[12]

Box office[edit]

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. As of August 2009, it had earned $166,003 in the U.S. and $6,192,098 worldwide, against a reported budget of $47 million.[2]


  1. ^ Hopewell, John (2008-02-22). "Wild Bunch corrals diverse slate". Variety (Reed Business Information). Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  2. ^ a b "Outlander (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 7 August 2011. 
  3. ^ stax (2006-10-21). "From Pathfinder to Outlander". IGN. Retrieved 2006-10-21. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Troy Rogers (2006-11-21). "Howard McCain, Outlander Interview". UGO. Retrieved 2006-11-24. 
  5. ^ Ian Mohr (2005-05-12). "Weinsteins nab sci-fi alien epic". Variety. Retrieved 2006-11-03. 
  6. ^ "James Caviezel Boards Outlander". ComingSoon.net. 2006-09-22. Retrieved 2006-11-03. 
  7. ^ Cliff Wells (2006-10-20). "Little Lark Harbour becomes Hollywood North". The Western Star. Retrieved 2007-01-12. [dead link]
  8. ^ The Weinstein Company (2006-11-02). "Outlander Principal Photography Started". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved 2006-11-03. 
  9. ^ "Outlander (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  10. ^ Bennett, Ray (August 15, 2008). "Film Review: Outlander". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 29, 2009. 
  11. ^ Elley, Derek (August 15, 2008). "Outlander Review". Variety. Retrieved January 29, 2009. 
  12. ^ Outlander at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: January 23, 2011.

External links[edit]