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 period action film earns its R rating with frequent scenes of hard-hitting, bloody violence. Weapons including swords, rocks, arrows, spears, spiky traps, chains, maces, and axes are used to decapitate, dismember, hang, beat, impale, stab, and crush victims (broken, rotting bodies are shown). Others die via drowning, avalanche, bear attack, falls, and more. Images of the mayhem range from aggressively chaotic to slow-motion poetic, with repeated shots of spurting blood (primarily from chests and necks). Most of the characters are bent on vengeance; the Vikings plan to exterminate the Native Americans (whom they call "savages") and are depicted as tall, dark monsters who tend to roar more than speak. When they do talk, they use a couple of mild swear words (in subtitles), including "bitch" and "damn."
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What's the story?
Set around 1000 A.D., PATHFINDER unfurls the legend of Ghost, an orphaned Viking rescued by the Wampanoag chief's wife and destined to save his newfound "family." First identified as an enemy by the native North Americans, he matures into a robust wannabe brave (played by Karl Urban) determined to prove himself. He gets his chance when the Vikings destroy his village and kill his adoptive family. Intent on revenge, ghost turns to another tribe -- led by the venerable Pathfinder (Russell Means) -- for both support and doubt. The old shaman's daughter, Starfire (Moon Bloodgood), has a crush on the white boy and proves to be as capable a fighter as any of her fellow tribesmen. In the bloody battle, Ghost confronts his father's old warmongering partner, Gunnar (Clancy Brown). In the end, a successor for Pathfinder is in place and a white hero anointed.
Is it any good?
Boasting a prettified brutality that rivals that of 300, PATHFINDER also explores a similarly basic theme: manly men pursuing revenge at any cost. Ghost's story includes the usual touchstones for an outsider: he's mistrusted at first, then he transforms into an excellent warrior who is obsessed with proving that he's one of the tribe. The main battle goes on for most of the movie, and after lots of cacophonous violence (blood sprays, eye-pluckings, impalings, and more), the movie ends neatly, with a muted lesson on the costs of vengeance.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role of violence in the movie. Is it appropriate for the story that's being told? Which parts, if any, are gratuitous? How accurate do you think it is? Families can also discuss the enduring mythology of the white hero. How is it significant that Ghost is white instead of Native American? How does he struggle with his double heritage? What does he learn about vengeance?
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