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Film / Dead Lands

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Where the warrior spirit was born.

The Deadlands is a 2014 New Zealand film directed by Toa Fraser. After his father and most of his tribe is killed by a warrior from a rival tribe, orphaned teenager Hongi (James Rolleston) travels to the barren Deadlands in search for a legendary Māori warrior (Lawrence Makaore) so that he can avenge his father's death.


  • Anti-Hero: The Warrior is a violent, petty, misanthrope who eagerly kills most anyone he comes across. The only reason he could be called heroic at all is because he (begrudgingly) helps Hongi avenge his father's death.
  • Badass Native: Everyone.
  • Big Bad: Wirepa.
  • Blade on a Stick: Hongi fights with a taiaha.
  • Braids, Beads and Buckskins: Being set in pre-colonial New Zealand, all of the Māori wear traditional native costume.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Members of Wirepa's tribe are distinguished by their green garments and matching haircuts.
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  • Cool Sword: The Warrior wields a mere (an edged club carved from jade stone). Late in the movie Wirepa's men find some blades studded with shark teeth, which they use very effectively.
  • Cool Old Guy: Hongi's father, who cares for his family and tribe and tries to seek peace with Wirepa's tribe rather than start a war (it doesn't work).
  • Cruel Mercy: Hongi chooses to spare Wirepa instead of giving him an honorable death.
  • Don't Go Into the Woods: The Deadlands has a reputation for being a creepy and dangerous place.
  • The Dreaded: The Warrior, who kills and eats anyone who enters his lands, and is the main reason why people are so scared to enter the Deadlands in the first place.
  • Glory Seeker: Wirepa's quest for glory is what drives him to attack Hongi's tribe in the first place, kicking off the plot.
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  • I'm a Humanitarian: Cannibalism is referenced multiple times, and several of the characters engage in it openly.
  • Magical Native American: Hongi can speak to the dead, and apparently The Warrior's wives can as well. Subverted as not only are Māori not Native Americans (though they fill the same societal role as an indigenous people), everyone in the movie is Māori.
  • Mentor Archetype: Hongi gets three over the course of the film: his father, his grandmother, and The Warrior.
  • No Name Given: Hongi's father, his grandmother, The Warrior, and Wirepa's father.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Hongi's grandmother, who appears to him in visions in order to guide him.
  • Revenge: After their village is ransacked, the surviving members of Hongi's tribe all beckon him to get retribution on Wirepa. He obliges.
  • The Good King: Hongi's father is rangatira of his tribe.
  • Pride: Wirepa's Fatal Flaw. He decides to walk through the forbidden Deadlands instead of around them, claiming that the spirits will be too in awe of him to do anything (making an enemy of The Warrior in the process). He refuses to listen to any dissenting voices even as more and more of his followers die, and even kills one of his own men for challenging him.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Every character is this in some way, true to the warrior culture of the Māori.
    • The film itself is a deconstruction of warrior societies and the obligations they force on members. Wirepa is so eager to achieve glory in battle that he defiles the remains of his own ancestors to give him an excuse to make war on Hongi's tribe. Hongi's father is willing to sacrifice his own son to pay recompense for this perceived slight, and his death at Wirepa's hands spurs Hongi to kill Wirepa in turn. The Warrior speaks against this mindset, claiming that there is no such thing as honor in battle and that anyone who says otherwise is either a fool or trying to fool others. The cycle only ends when Hongi spares Wirepa and sends him back to his village, preventing his next of kin from taking revenge.
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: At the beginning of the movie the chief is betrayed by one of his own.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Two of Wirepa's warriors go off on their own after Wirepa enters the Deadlands, thinking the area's spirits will take revenge on him for disturbing them and that they should leave while they still have a chance (ironically, they're actually the first to be killed by Hongi and The Warrior).
  • Shout-Out: Hongi's demand of "blood for blood" is a reference to Utu, a 1984 film with a similar plot concerning the Māori custom of taking gruesome revenge on a dead family member's behalf.
  • Shrouded in Myth: No one knows the true story of the Deadlands, with most believing that the tribe who lived there simply vanished one day and that the warrior who stalks the area is a vengeful spirit turns out The Warrior is just a man, and the reason the tribe disappeared is because he killed them.
  • Spirit Advisor: The Friendly Ghost of Hongi's grandmother continues to act as his mentor after her murder.
  • Stone Punk: Neolithic technology plus the Warrior's intimidating mohawk.
  • Tattoo as Character Type: The Warrior's facial tattoos single him out as a veteran warrior, while Hongi's father's tattoos mark him as a man of high status.
  • Warrior Poet: Makaore's character is a Cultured Badass whose lines are reminiscent of Shakespeare's tragic heroes.
  • Weird West: The Deadlands are barren wasteland populated by ghosts and Outlaws.
  • You Killed My Father: It's Personal because Wirepa's betrayal of Hongi's tribe crossed the Moral Event Horizon.

Alternative Title(s): The Dead Lands