- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 14, 2007

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.


Rating: R for strong brutal violence throughout.

Common Sense Media: Pause. For ages 15 and older.

** (out of five stars)

Running time: 88 minutes

Common Sense review: Boasting a prettified brutality that rivals that of “300,” “Pathfinder” also explores a similarly basic theme: manly men pursuing revenge at any cost. Here, the warring factions are the Vikings and the Wampanoag Indians of North America. Caught in between is Ghost, an orphaned Viking rescued by the Wampanoag chief’s wife and destined to save his newfound “family.”

Unfurling as a legend set around 1000, Ghost’s story includes the usual touchstones: First identified as an enemy by the American Indians, he matures into a robust wannabe brave (played by Karl Urban) determined to prove himself to those who still see him as an outsider.

His chance comes tragically when the Vikings invade, destroying his village and killing his adoptive parents and adorable little sister. Ghost gets mad: All he wants is vengeance. Handily, he’s been training for it throughout his young life — he kept a sword from the wrecked ship he was discovered in and has continued to practice.

Ghost turns to another tribe — led by the venerable Pathfinder (Russell Means, yet again offering wisdom to a youthful upstart) — for both support and doubt. The old shaman’s daughter, Starfire (Moon Bloodgood), has a crush on the white boy, which eventually serves him very well, as she proves to be as fierce and capable a fighter as any of her fellow tribesmen.

The fight goes on for most of the movie as Ghost confronts his father’s old warmongering partner, Gunnar (Clancy Brown) — whose horned helmet isn’t historically accurate, but conforms to popular stereotypes of Vikings. After lots of cacophonous violence (blood sprays, eye-pluckings, impalings, and more), the movie ends with a successor for Pathfinder in place, a white hero anointed and a muted lesson on the costs of vengeance.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that this period action film earns its R rating with frequent scenes of hard-hitting, bloody violence. Most of the characters are bent on vengeance; the Vikings plan to exterminate the American Indians (whom they call “savages”) and are depicted as tall, dark monsters who tend to roar more than speak.

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 also can discuss the enduring mythology of the white hero. How is it significant that Ghost is white instead of an American Indian? How does he struggle with his double heritage? What does he learn about vengeance?

Sexual content: A man and woman lie close to each other, apparently nude (they’re trying to keep warm, but they’re also the designated romantic couple).

Language alert: Just a few curse words used by Vikings (in subtitles).

Violence alert: Violence is alternately represented in lyrical and hard-hitting imagery. A child is discovered in a wrecked Viking ship among corpses; battle scenes include spearing, decapitation, arrows, knives, swords, trampling, falling, an arm getting lopped off, throats being cut, a bear attack, impaling, beating, kicking, hanging (bodies displayed after death), drowning, and crushing by an avalanche. Frequent shots of blood spurting. Vikings throw woman against a log as if to rape her, but the hero steps in.

Social-behavior alert: Brief use of medicinal herbs/smoke during a healing ritual.

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