Thursday, August 09, 2012

Ask JKM a Question #21: The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988)?

Emiliano, a reader from Argentina, writes:

“I have been reading your blog since 2008 and I think you are one of the best reviewers in the world.”

“I would like to ask you if you have had the chance to see The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey directed by Vincent Ward (1988).

If you have seen the film, please could you make some comment? I think is a great movie and it would be good for many readers to see it too…”

Emiliano, I am very grateful for your kind words about my blog, and about my writing as well.  I appreciate your long-time support of the blog very much.
And secondly, I appreciate you directing our attention to this great Vincent Ward fantasy film from the late 1980s. 

I have not seen The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey in probably a decade at this point.  But I still carry vivid memories of the viewing experience. 

Specifically, I recollect that the film boasted a very…tactile atmosphere. There was nothing romanticized or glamorous about the characters or their settings.  The people we “traveled” with were dirty and smudged, and yet abundantly human.  The effect was one of total immersion in their world of the Middle Ages, as I recall.  Every moment and every character felt amazingly authentic

I also admire the core idea of the film as I remember it; that of primitive people encountering something totally beyond their world view, and having to accommodate it all in stride.   How would we see the world of the 25th century, for example?

I also loved the kind of anti-rational, magical realism aspect of this New Zealand-made movie.  The notion being that you could dig through a hole in the Middle Ages and suddenly find yourself - without explanation -- in a 20th century metropolis.  This is the kind of story I always enjoyed on The Twilight Zone (“A Hundred Years over the Rim.”)  I don’t necessarily need a scientific explanation for such a temporal crossover, I just enjoy seeing how things play out between “overlapping” worlds and people.

I’d love to see the film again and review it here on the blog soon. The only problem is that the film is not widely available on DVD at this point.  Netflix doesn’t carry it, and the movie is prohibitively expensive at retail sites.  If anyone knows where I can get an affordable copy, please contact me at   

This would indeed be a truly great film to revisit here on the blog.

I will definitely keep my eyes open for a screening copy of The Navigator, Emiliano, and hope to review it soon.  Thank you for your question, and for highlighting a great movie.

Don’t forget, ask me questions at  We have some more great reader questions coming up in the next week…


  1. I'd almost forgotten about this one, it's a movie I'd love to watch, I remember wanting to rent it but never getting around to it for some reason! I'm goint to hunt it down as well, sounds like a real interesting premise.

    1. Hi TFC:

      I remember really liking the film, and want to see it again now. I haven't seen The Navigator in quite some time, but the raw power of some of the visuals really stuck with me.

      Hopefully, we'll both get to see it, and add our takes on it...

      Thank you for an excellent comment,

      Best wishes,

  2. Wow, this awakened some memories from deep in my mind too. I saw this when I was a kid, back when I couldn't get enough of any type of medieval movie. I remember being completely thrown by it, but like you said some of the images were very vivid and intense. The moment when "the black death" flies across the moon, the scene where the villiagers attempt to navigate a highway, and the finale with the race up a steeple. I remember the ending really punching me in the gut, I didn't see it coming at all (but I was pretty young).

    The other thing I remember is the music, which was almost like Gregorian chant. One of the main characters was named Conner, and they actually worked it into the music with a bunch of male voices saying "Conner!" over and over again. This became a bit of a joke with my friends, because one of them had the last name Conner - and so we'd all burst into song when we'd see him. :)