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by KEVIN TAYLOR & r & & r & Pathfinder & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & his ripped-from-the-Dark-Ages tale of pillage and vengeance is the sort of film that leaves a viewer with lingering questions after the final credits roll -- like, why does Pathfinder stink so bad? And why is it so hard to make a good Viking movie?





The Vikings of cinema are the Klingons of Earth: rowdy, rasty, roaring-drunk warriors with wicked-edge weapons and huge belly laughs. They heave up out of the mist in terrifying dragon-prowed longboats like outlaw bikers invading your family picnic.





Menace. Mayhem. Leers. Blood wine.





The weird thing is that the Vikings in Pathfinder are purely sci-fi. Many of the scenes have the look of a pitiful Star Trek soundstage, with characters lurking around in deep blue lighting and dry-ice fog amid a maze of trees and vines. Plus, these Vikings are so heavily armored that we almost never see their faces. The helmets, some in the shape of skulls, have about 10 feet of curling metal horns. It's ridiculous.





They are merely an uber-obvious plot device for Karl Urban -- who played a great Viking-esque character as Eomer of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings trilogy -- to kill and kill and kill in defense of his adopted Native American family.





Yes, Urban plays Ghost, a Norse child stranded during a raid on the North American coast and raised by Dances With Wolves until, let's say it all together in our best deep Movietone narrator voices, "... 15 years later, the Vikings return and Ghost must choose his path..." It's that insipid.





Why is that? The last Viking movie, The 13th Warrior with Antonio Banderas, started out great only to also dive off into sci-fi weirdness and become eye-rollingly silly. You have to go back to the Eisenhower years to see a tankard-hoisting Viking epic -- 1958's The Vikings with Kirk Douglas and Ernest Borgnine.





So until the Hollywood brain trust can figure things out, look for the almost unknown Beowulf & amp; Grendel (2005), filmed in Iceland. Technically, it's not a Viking movie, but it's better than ones that say they are.

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