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 (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 film revolves around a spaceship crashing in Viking age Norway. Outlander is based loosely on Beowulf, according to the makers of the film.[3]


A spacecraft crash lands in a large lake in Norway, circa 709 AD. From the wreckage emerges Kainan, a soldier, who was unknowingly transporting 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 removes his damaged armour and begins tracking the Moorwen. He discovers it has destroyed a village and killed all its inhabitants; the village was in the territory of Gunnar, neighbor to the tribe who capture Kainan. Kainan is captured by Wulfric, a Norse warrior who dubs him an "outlander", losing his weapon in the river. He is held prisoner in the burg ruled by King Hrothgar who attempts to convince his headstrong daughter Freya it is time to give in and marry Wulfric, the future King. During his interrogation he tells a modified but mostly true story about hunting a "dragon". He later makes an escape attempt after knocking Freya unconscious, during which the Moorwen enters the burg and kills several men. Believing it to be nothing more than a bear attack Hrothgar orders a bear hunt which Kainan is to be a part of, albeit with his hands tied. Before they depart Freya punches Kainan on the jaw, knocking him to the ground much to the enjoyment of the men. On the journey, Kainan tells Hrothgar more of his story, that he is from a land very far away and that the "dragon" must have stowed away on his ship before sinking it in the lake. Kainan also strikes up conversation with the drunken blacksmith Boromir who introduces Kainan to Herod Mead. While it appears that several men are attacked by the Moorwen, Kainan actually succeeds in killing a massive bear and saving the King who immediately releases him and gives him the sword he used to kill the bear.

At the celebration that night Kainan appears at the feast wearing Viking armour and is immediately placed next to the King. He also meets a young orphan named Eric who wishes to see the sword that killed the bear. After Kainan gives him the sword King Hrothgar informs Kainan that the boy's parents were both killed by raiders. He also says that Vikings take care of their own and the boy would be cared for. Kainan is then challenged by Wulfric to a game of Shields, where Vikings must run along a row of shields supported on the shoulders of all the men and the first to touch the ground loses. While Kainan proves Wulfrics equal in skill the shield he is standing on breaks and he loses, though Wulfric congratulates him for nearly winning.

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 returning to his homeworld with his wife's and son's bodies, when the Moorwen (which stowed away aboard the ship) broke free and caused the crash.

As the Moorwen "dragon" ravages the countryside, Kainan forms an alliance with the warriors. The Moorwen's attack of the first village triggers war between King Gunnar and King Hrothgar, whom Gunnar believes is responsible for the destruction of his village. Gunnar assaults Hrothgar's village, and almost kills Hrothgar who is again saved by Kainan. 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 trap and destroy the Moorwen and its newly born offspring in a trap designed by Kainan. Unfortunately the trap fails and 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. Kainan and several warriors remain behind to kill the Moorwen. Kainan realises that their weapons are too weak and they need stronger metal.

Kainan, Freya and other warriors sail onto the lake where Kainan's ship crashed, much to Freya's confusion as to how a "ship" could have sunk in a lake not connected to the open sea. As Kainan dives down to the wreck he attaches floats to a section of the ship's hull to raise it to the surface, only to find the Moorwen has destroyed the boat and taken Freya.

With metal salvaged from his crashed spacecraft, Kainan has Boromir forge new weapons capable of harming the Moorwen. After a harrowing journey, Kainan and the warriors confront the Moorwen in a cave system filled with dozens of bodies and eventually defeat the alien monsters. Only Kainan and Freya survive, with Boromir and Wulfric both being fatally injured. As he dies Wulfric transfers the kingship to Kainan, remarking that at least he got to be king, even if only for a single day. 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, and to remain on Earth. The ship reverses course and returns to space. Kainan is unaware that Freya witnessed the entire event. An epilogue explains that Kainan and Freya will marry and adopt Eric, and Kainan will become the new king. Only Freya knows 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."



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 with 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.[4]

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.[5]

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 was based on a screenplay written by McCain and Dirk Blackman.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

The conceptual design of Outlander was shaped by Iain McCaig, whose Ninth Ray Studios helped set up concept art, storyboarding, animatronics, and set design.[5] 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.[9]

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.[5]

Actor Patrick Stevenson, who plays the superstitious Viking Unferth, studied pagan gods, the Norse god Thor, and runestones for his character.[10]

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. 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 it by a linguistics professor from Iceland.

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.[5]

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[5] and included longhouses and a hall.[10]

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.[11]

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." [12]

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."[13]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 38% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on sixty reviews.[14]

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 US$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. ^ Mike Szymanski (2006-11-02). "Caviezel Talks Outlander". Sci Fi Wire. Retrieved 2006-11-04. [dead link]
  4. ^ stax (2006-10-21). "From Pathfinder to Outlander". IGN. Retrieved 2006-10-21. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Troy Rogers (2006-11-21). "Howard McCain, Outlander Interview". UGO. Retrieved 2006-11-24. 
  6. ^ Ian Mohr (2005-05-12). "Weinsteins nab sci-fi alien epic". Variety. Retrieved 2006-11-03. 
  7. ^ "James Caviezel Boards Outlander". ComingSoon.net. 2006-09-22. Retrieved 2006-11-03. 
  8. ^ Cliff Wells (2006-10-20). "Little Lark Harbour becomes Hollywood North". The Western Star. Retrieved 2007-01-12. [dead link]
  9. ^ The Weinstein Company (2006-11-02). "Outlander Principal Photography Started". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved 2006-11-03. 
  10. ^ a b "N.B. actor plays Viking in sci-fi flick, The Outlander, shot in Halifax". CanadaEast Online. 2006-12-27. Retrieved 2007-01-12. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Outlander (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  12. ^ Bennett, Ray (August 15, 2008). "Film Review: Outlander". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 29, 2009. 
  13. ^ Elley, Derek (August 15, 2008). "Outlander Review". Variety. Retrieved January 29, 2009. 
  14. ^ Outlander at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: January 23, 2011.

External links[edit]