PictureOffered up at 2.40:1, 1080p using the MPEG-2 codec Pathfinder is a very reasonable transfer indeed. The film itself has been leeched of colour and presents a light, almost sepia, monochromatic pallet which during scenes in the woods migrates to ice blues and greys. In the main the film is dark but no detail is lost in the shadows and no crushing is apparent.
As the action comes thick and fast so do the edits and this, combined with the stylistic choices mentioned above, is the only reason that some detail is lost; It's actually not on screen long enough for you to take it all in! Slow motion or paused scenes will reveal their glory, some of the shadow scenes, the intricate detail on the Viking's armour and the Indian's clothing all come across well. Depth is more than apparent in some of the brighter daylit scenes, of the Indian village with lake in the background for instance; but somehow it still doesn't quite achieve that 3-dimensionality that we've come to expcet from premium releases.
The master of this being digital there's no marks, dirt or blemishes on show. There is some artificial grain added to the moodily lit forest scenes adding a sense of realism to the production as a whole. Not a bad transfer, but not one of the better ones I have seen in terms of clarity and visual appeal.
SoundThe premier track on offer here is, of course, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 variety. Alas I'm only still able to listen to the core of this system but even so this is still a thundering detailed presentation. It's as though Nispel at times was still directing one of his early music videos, with slow motion action set to some pounding LFE. The score itself crashes through your fronts, into the rears offering up a wide and expansive soundstage which is totally in tune with the action on screen.
Dialogue and the high tones of swords are easily distinguished, panning between the fronts or centred respectively. The extensive battle scenes spring the whole surround field into life with a multitude of hammer blows from the weapons and screams from the victims. Surround use is used to great effect in some of the quieter moments, of which there are not too many, in the forest with wind and animals clearly apparent. Echoing effects off the mountains haunts well into the soundstage and is complimented well by the thunderous use of low LFE towards the end and the avalanche scene.
Pathfinder is loud and as mentioned makes extensive use of LFE so be wary when cranking this up, as it might just be a little too much. So, if you enjoy your tracks full and in your face you'll want to be giving this disc a quick whirl.
- Commentary with Director Marcus Nispel.
Marcus details how and why he decided to start this project, initially wanting to do something with Gladiators or Pirates but finding that he had been beaten to the post opted for Vikings. Information on the graphic novel is offered up, as well as shooting locations, filming techniques and general structure of production. It's not a great commentary and perhaps little self effacing. Nispel obviously realising where his talents lie and perhaps where his current boundaries are drawn. He certainly comes across as a warm chap and is more than enthusiastic and willing to impart information.
- The Path Revealed: Secrets on Screen.
This offers snippets of information which appear on screen as you're watching the movie. There's nothing really new to see here most of what' on offer being available either through the commentary or the featurettes themselves.
- Deleted Scenes. - 0:10:11
7 scenes in total either fully removed from the main feature or trimmed a little. They can either be played individually or on mass with or without director's commentary. Most are fall by the wayside affairs, although the hunting scene where Ghost is trying to prove his worth is a little amusing; not because of the scene per-se and it certainly doesn't deserve a place in the final film... but because it shows him hunting a small rabbit with the words Replace Animal on screen. Obviously a rabbit is far to fluffy for this kind of presentation.
- Featurettes. - 0:30:41
There are 6 in total, The Beginning, The Design, The Build, The Shoot, The Stunts, and Clancy Brown: Cult Hero. Like the deleted scenes they can be played together or individually. These are the standard EPK fare, interviews with cast and crew members on and off set discussing their motivations for contributing to this feature. The Design and Build were the best of the set I felt, which is a shame as I was hoping that the Clancy Brown section would have been a little more fleshed out and actually contain a detailed interview with this anti-hero. Sadly though this is not the case and this extra could have been so much the better for it.
The original trailer in High Def.
As the extras go there's not really a lot there. A standard commentary which at times becomes a little shallow to wade through, standard featurettes which really don't add anything to the mix and deleted scenes which are in the bin for a reason. It's certainly good to see Fox making some sort of effort but it could have been so much more. Sadly lacking.
VerdictI suppose that I never really enjoyed nor disliked Pathfinder really, and as such that's quite a damning statement. For me it just whittled away a couple of hours of my time, never really connecting me with the plight of the tribes or the main characters. Sure there's some nice battle scenes but ones which we've see all too often before and certainly seen presented on film to better effect.
I feel that the story of the Vikings hitting the American shores is still out there for someone to take by the horns, it certainly has all the potential elements to make a great feature; this alas though isn't it. The picture quality is good enough, if not a little shrouded in constant darkness and the audio will have your ears pricking up, however ultimately this is let down by a weak storyline, poor characterisation and shallow acting.
I would give this one a rental before deciding to buy, or if you're a dyed in the wool lover of hack and slash then this one is certainly for you.
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- Commentary with Director Marcus Nispel.