A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this sci-fi action-adventure has plentiful bloody violence and gory killings, committed against alien and earthlings alike. Children are stated to be among the casualties of the monster. There is plentiful liquor use and manly bonding over a Viking drinking game. There's one f-word as well.
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What's the story?
A space traveler named Kainan (James Caviezel) is a castaway when his ship crashes on Earth in Scandinavia in 709 A.D. Kainan's mishap is no mere accident; the man was a troubleshooter whose job was to prepare a distant planet for colonization via the mass-annihilation of the native life form, a vicious, bioluminous dinosaur-like species called moorwen. But one moorwen survived the holocaust, killed Kainan's family, and stowed away aboard his ship to attack. Now the moorwen is loose in the fjords, and destroying Norse villages. Kainan, taken captive by angry Vikings who suspect other tribes of the slaughter, manages, after some trouble, to convince them he is an ally (relating the moorwen to the dragons of their mythology). He must use the Viking's primitive weapons and tools and unite rival clans to help slay the cunning, vengeful moorwen.
Is it any good?
Filmmakers obviously had the ancient tale of Beowulf in mind with this predictable, eye-catching fantasy, with elements of Alien and Predator added in. There are decent (and stone-serious solemn) performances, impressive production design, computer-creature f/x, and appealing moments of Viking fellowship. But OUTLANDER has a generally predictable, violent storyline, and sometimes feels eons longer than it needs to be. Some sympathy is generated for the monster, a creature caught up in a brutal, unjust extermination campaign by high-tech exploiters (hard not to think about Avatar in this sense), but that doesn't alter the moorwen's grim fate -- or that one can see it coming miles off.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the monster's motivation. Is the ravenous moorwen truly a villain, or the victim? Does that make Kainan a hero or guilty of genocide?
Outlander clearly has a notion to be a science-fiction movie takeoff on Beowulf. There have been others (including an R-rated Christopher Lambert one with more severe gore and eroticism), but parents might use the gimmick to try to get kids to read the original epic-poem. Or John Gardner's novel Grendel, which tells the doomed monster's side of it, or Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead, another clever re-imagining.
Study up on the actual Vikings and the mystique that surrounds them. Local "Norsemen" ethnic clubs are proud of their traditions and heroes. Does Outlander get the cultural details correct?
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