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. On board is an alien monster, the Moorwen, and the "outlander", Kainan, who activates a distress signal and sets out to trace the Moorwen, which had stowed away on his ship and caused the crash.

Kainan is captured by a local chieftain, Wulfric and held prisoner by king Hrothgar. The Moorwen attacks Hrothgar's hall, killing several men. Believing the attack being due to a bear, Hrothgar goes on a bear hunt, on which Kainan saves the king's life. The Moorwen ravages the countryside, and causes a war as one king Gunnar misinterprets an attack on his village as a hostile action by Hrothgar. Gunnar assaults Hrothgar, who is again saved by Kainan. Retreating from the attack, Gunnar's men are attacked by the Moorwen and forced to seek alliance with Hrothgar. In an attempt to trap Moorwen and its newly born offspring, many of the Norsemen are killed, including both kings. The survivors retreat, with Kainan and Wulfric staying behind the Moorwen, eventually defeating it in a cave. Fatally injured, Wulfric transfers the kingship to Kainan. Just as a rescue ship is approaching, Kainan deactivates his distress signal, opting to remain on earth.


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]