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PATHFINDER

About The Innovative Look Of Pathfinder
Right from the start, director Marcus Nispel knew that he had an opportunity to create his own unique visual style with PATHFINDER that would set it apart from other tales of adventure and survival. Since the story unfolds in a time that is beyond historical reach, Nispel felt he had unlimited creative freedom.

To begin, Nispel collaborated with artist and illustrator Christopher Shy on a set of vividly-detailed storyboards. Shy is one of the hottest artists working in graphic novels today and is renowned for drawings so rich and textural they look like they might jump off the page. Rather than just illustrating a few key sequences, they created gorgeous depictions of every single frame in the film. "We decided we would paint the entire movie before shooting it,” explains the director. "Christopher and I had a great collaboration. We both love heroes, we both love the same kinds of movies, and we had a fantastic time working together.”

The resulting images – by turns brutal, ethereal and emotional – impressed everyone who saw them. "We could see that PATHFINDER was going to be like a graphic novel come to life,” says executive producer Bradley J. Fischer. "Marcus is such an amazing visual stylist, and he was able to create a world that is very different from reality, yet which operates by its own clear rules.”

The details began with how to bring to life the two clashing cultures of the Wampanoag Indians and the Vikings. The Wampanoag were the original inhabitants of the area that today is Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where they lived for at least 10,000 years as fishers, hunters and warriors who fostered a harmonious way of life with the natural environment. They are also the same tribe who would later, in the 1600s, famously befriend the Pilgrims before succumbing to a wave of disease and violence that the British brought with them.

Although there is considerable research on the colonial-era history of the Wampanoag, much of life in the 9th century will forever remain an enigma. This gave Nispel a chance to take some creative liberties. "We're talking about life a thousand years ago, so there's very little proof of anything,” he notes. "And when you talk to Native Americans or historians, everyone has a different idea of what it was like. Did they really have tree houses? Well, maybe if they originally came from Asia, they did. I went to every department head and asked them to think about what things might have been like and let the look sort of come together as a hybrid of many different theories and ideas.”

When it came to creating the Vikings, Nispel was determined to overcome centuries of comical clichés. "As we were doing research, we realized that in America, 9 out of 10 books about Vikings have these cute little guys with horns,” he laughs. "Here, they have mostly been seen as cartoons, whereas in Europe we still remember them as pillagers! In Europe they are still seen as a major historical force.”

The reality of the Vikings is that they were a complex society which thrived on aggressive warfare, yet were also masters of the sea, as well as farmers, traders and skilled craftsmen with a unique way of life. In a quest to increase their worldly influence, the Vikings began raiding towns and villages across Europe, earning a reputation for heathen slaughter and evil that has stuck with them ever since.

Nispel wanted to emphasize the latter and avoid any kind of dry, strictly historical interpretation. He envisioned his Vikings as men raised to believe in the glory of violence and conquest, which ultimately led to their society's collapse. He also developed a unique look for them, avoiding the standard clichés and the less intriguing suggestions of recent historians that Vikings never wore the famous horned helmets with which they are usually associated.

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