“The Dead Lands” is an adventure-movie from New Zealand, and my favorite thing about it – which also really set it apart from similar movies – was its setting, which deals with a feud between two Maori tribes sometime in the distant past. The setup itself, with the slaughtering of Hongi’s clan elders, leaving only this young man and a couple of women and children as survivors, might be well-known (reminding me, among others, of “Conan”), but because it’s set within the not-as-well-known Maori culture, and offers up a fascinating view into their way of life, I still found it to be quite fresh and interesting.
Granted, not everything about the movie worked for me. For example, I could have done without all the dream-sequences with Hongi’s grandmother. I’m aware that spiritualism is an important part of Maori culture, but it’s just not my thing. I also thought that the beginning was a little slow; for me, “The Dead Lands” really came alive only after we meet the Warrior, who in my mind was by far the most intriguing character. The action scenes, while pretty nice, suffer from a couple of clichés here and there, like the one warrior fighting against a horde of enemies, who have the decency to attack him in easily defeatable waves. And the showdown features our heroes falling for one of the oldest tricks EVER, which made them look rather stupid.
Apart from that, though, I mostly enjoyed the movie. Hongi was a decent lead character (and actor), but as I just mentioned, the person that I found most fascinating was the Warrior, especially because of his troubled past. I also loved what happens when they meet a female warrior. And the ending, even though it was rather predictable, was nevertheless quite nice, and even slightly touching. The fight scenes were shot competently and were mostly comprehensible, the visual style of the movie was quite nice, offering a couple of stunning images, and some of the landscapes were breathtakingly beautiful. As far as recent historic adventure/revenge-flicks go, I still prefer “Flukt”, but “The Dead Lands” nevertheless was a decent and well-made entry into this sub-genre.
Read my buddy Maynard’s review here!