13 February 2008 | mstomaso
Dances with Vikings
Nipsel and company basically hybridized the structure of Dances with Wolves with a not-quite-historical fiction (more like radical speculation) plot about interactions between Norsemen and Native Americans during the 12th century A.D.
Ghost (Karl Urban) is a Norse boy left behind aboard a wrecked ship. He is adopted by the Clan of the Dog (the dogs who cohabitate with this tribe are historically inaccurate, but that's just one of many historical transgressions). As he grows up, Ghost's obvious difference and his history become something of a stumbling block for him, but he works hard to overcome them in order to be accepted by his adoptive people. Eventually, it seems, he must confront the demons of his past, and unfortunately, so must the Clan of the Dog.
Pathfinder is played well by Russell Means, and Ghost's love interest - Starfire - is nicely portrayed by Moon Bloodgood. Urban has great physical talent, but this story did not lend itself to testing his ability to create drama and mood, so there isn't much to say about his performance. Likewise, most of the Norse characters were so under-developed and one-dimensional that it is impossible to comment on the performances involved.
Although the story relies on stereotypes to develop both its Norse and Native American characters, since so little is actually known about the Norse colonies, this seems forgivable. What is not really forgivable, in my opinion, is the reiteration of the trope established in Dances with Wolves and other similar works which suggests that it takes a European to effectively fight off Europeans. Although the characterizations of the protagonists in both films are adequate to explain their behavior, the character and behavior of the Native Americans attached to them is less well developed, and there is a lingering, inaccurate and disturbing shadow of inferiority implied in their apparent inability to strategize and effectively lead in combat.
However, Pathfinder refuses to touch reality with any length of pole, so, sit back and enjoy the action, costumes and sets.
The film contains a lot of violence, most of which is convincingly shot. The costuming is excellent, and the sets are lovely. if you can get past the problems - which are several - you may just enjoy it.