Outlander (film)

Outlander (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
with Ron Perlman
and John Hurt
Music by Geoff Zanelli
Cinematography Pierre Gill
Editing by David Dodson
Distributed by The Weinstein Company
Release date(s) 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 science fiction film directed by Howard McCain and starring James Caviezel. Caviezel has described Outlander as a light combination of Braveheart and Highlander.[3]



The story begins when a spacecraft tears through the atmosphere and streaks across the sky, crashing into a Norwegian lake in 709 AD. From the wreckage emerges Kainan, a soldier from a faraway planet, and a deadly alien stowaway called a Moorwen. Before he has a chance to track down the alien, Kainan, the Outlander, is captured by a Viking warrior named Wulfric and held prisoner in the local village led by King Rothgar. Gradually, as the Vikings come round to believing his story about "hunting a Dragon", and after he saves the King's life, he is accepted into their society. Flashbacks reveal his history where man and monster both seek revenge for violence committed against them: Kainan's people came to the Moorwens' world, killing them all and claiming it for themselves. One Moorwen survived, however, and slaughtered all the colonists, including Kainan's wife and son, after the armed forces had left.

As the Moorwen "Dragon" ravages the Viking lands, killing everything in its path, Kainan forms an alliance with the primitive but fierce warriors. Shortly after Kainan crash landed, the Moorwen devastated the rival village, triggering war, with its surviving warriors led by King Gunnar. King Gunnar assaults Kainan's village, but his forces are repulsed. The enemy Vikings retreat into the forest, the Moorwen strikes, leaving the Vikings no choice but to run back to their former foes for refuge. Together, the two sides attempt to destroy the Moorwen and its newly spawned offspring. The village takes massive casualties, including both of the tribal kings. With the warriors demoralized, most of the Vikings leave the village in search of a new home and safety.

Kainan, his friends, and the King's feisty daughter Freya, stand together to destroy the Moorwen. Kainan assists the Vikings by salvaging pieces of his crashed spacecraft allowing the forging of weapons capable of harming the creature. After a harrowing journey, the Vikings and Kainan confront the Moorwen in caves under the village and finally defeat the alien monsters. Only Kainan and Freya survive. As the movie ends, Kainan destroys an emergency beacon triggered when his ship crash-landed, deciding to remain on Earth rather than return home. He buries Rothgar and Wulfric, marries Freya and becomes the new King of the tribe.



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.[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 is 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 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.[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 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 Tatopolous 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.[5]

For the film, McCain constructed a replica Viking village and a replica Viking ship. The ship was modeled after the Oseberg ship scouted at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. The museum's ship is 77 feet, which McCain shortened by ten feet in designing the dimensions for his film's ship for easier transportation. 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.[5] The village included long houses and a shield hall.[10]

Critical reception

The film received mixed reviews. The film holds a rating of 40 out of 100 on the web site Metacritic, which indicates "mixed or average reviews", based on 11 reviews.[11]

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." [12]

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." [13]

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

Historical accuracy

King Rothgar's court is shown to include a Christian monk. However, in reality, the first recorded attempts at spreading Christianity in Norway were made some two hundred years after the setting of the movie, by King Haakon the Good (reigned 934–961 AD), who had studied in England, then a Catholic kingdom. However, Norway was not unified under a single king until 872 AD, indicating that King Rothgar is the head of one of the petty kingdoms that would later become part of Norway.

Box office

"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.[2]


  1. ^ Hopewell, John (2008-02-22). "Wild Bunch corrals diverse slate". Variety (Reed Business Information). http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117981356.html?categoryId=2520&cs=1. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  2. ^ a b "Outlander (2009)". Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=outlander.htm. Retrieved 7 August 2011. 
  3. ^ Mike Szymanski (2006-11-02). "Caviezel Talks Outlander". Sci Fi Wire. http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/index.php?id=38788. Retrieved 2006-11-04. [dead link]
  4. ^ stax (2006-10-21). "From Pathfinder to Outlander". IGN. http://movies.ign.com/articles/726/726840p1.html. Retrieved 2006-10-21. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Troy Rogers (2006-11-21). "Howard McCain, Outlander Interview". UGO. http://www.ugo.com/ugo/html/article/?id=16070&sectionId=2. Retrieved 2006-11-24. 
  6. ^ Ian Mohr (2005-05-12). "Weinsteins nab sci-fi alien epic". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117922651.html?categoryid=13&cs=1. Retrieved 2006-11-03. 
  7. ^ "James Caviezel Boards Outlander". ComingSoon.net. 2006-09-22. http://comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=16625. Retrieved 2006-11-03. 
  8. ^ Cliff Wells (2006-10-20). "Little Lark Harbour becomes Hollywood North". The Western Star. http://www.thewesternstar.com/news.aspx?storyID=52645. Retrieved 2007-01-12. [dead link]
  9. ^ The Weinstein Company (2006-11-02). "Outlander Principal Photography Started". ComingSoon.net. http://comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=17337. 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. http://www.canadaeast.com/ce2/docroot/article.php?articleID=84453. Retrieved 2007-01-12. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Outlander (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/outlander. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  12. ^ Bennett, Ray (August 15, 2008). "Film Review: Outlander". The Hollywood Reporter. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/film/reviews/article_display.jsp?rid=11524. Retrieved January 29-2009. 
  13. ^ Elley, Derek (August 15, 2008). "Outlander Review". Variety. http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117937994.html?categoryid=31&cs=1&query=outlander. Retrieved January 29-2009. 
  14. ^ Outlander at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: January 23, 2011.

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