The 13th Warrior

Making a Michael Crichton movie can be a hazardous job. When done right, the movie can exemplify what is good about the movies, like Jurassic Park. When done badly, you have more reasons not to go to the movies. More often than not (the horrible Congo and the Wesley Snipes' ruined Rising Sun). Unfortunately, The 13th Warrior falls somewhere on the low end of the spectrum. Superficially, this movie has what it takes to be a summer blockbuster. However, a story from a book by Michael Crichton (the 1976 novel Eaters of the Dead), director John McTiernan (Die Hard, The Thomas Crown Affair), and superstar Antonio Banderas (The Mask of Zorro, and director of the upcoming Crazy in Alabama) is not enough to save this movie. It all starts off with a tepid story.

Eaters of the Dead is Crichton's telling of the story of Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan, an Iraqi poet who becomes involved with a group of Vikings to save their kingdom from a mysterious enemy. Crichton's book describes vividly what Fahdlan sees and what happens to him along the way, something painfully absent in William Wisher's script. The entire movie passes by with little explanation, leaving the viewer continually confused as to what is going on. Wisher takes small parts of the book and puts them in the film, without putting the larger context in. Many of the scenes in the movie are faithful to the book, but the movie viewer is completely in the dark as to why they are happening. The result is more of a montage of disconnected stories put together by long, repetitive fights. Regardless of how you feel about Crichton's merits as a writer, Eaters is probably one of his weaker books. Making it into a film did nothing to help it.

The story starts as Fahdlan is traveling to the northern kingdoms as their new ambassador. This is a punishment for sleeping with the wife of an important man. He meets up with a group of Vikings, who enlist him to help them defeat an evil too great to even mention. According to Norse legend, the number thirteen is lucky, and in order to succeed in their mission, they must have thirteen warriors, one of whom must be foreign. Fahdlan slowly learns their language, then slowly changes from a poet to a warrior. Together, the warriors fight the evil, which arrives when there is mist. Does this make sense? It is probably more than you would get out of the movie.

Banderas is, as always, overrated. Watching him play an Arab is laughable, as are the many shots of him looking tough, sweating profusely. It's funny how his shirt can stay white and only stained with blood around the collar after all the battles his character is involved in. Omar Sharif (Lawrence of Arabia and countless other films) and Diane Verona (True Crime, The Jackal) get second billing, even though their roles are minimal. Although there are thirteen warriors, we only really get to see two of them. The rest are just dirty, gross Vikings that kill and spit. Buliwyf (Vladimir Kulich from Firestorm and Crash) is the leader of the warriors. His role is limited to giving intense looks as his hair falls in his face. He looks like he belongs in a heavy metal video. The only actor worth mentioning is Dennis Storhoi (a profuse Norwegian actor), as Herger the Joyous, another of the warriors. Herger is Fahdlan's initial link to the group, since both of them could converse in Greek. Storhoi's Herger is a continual source of inspiration for Fahdlan and the only person in the entire movie that is likeable.

The 13th Warrior is another one of those movies where the book is better than the movie. In this case, the book is much better. However, you should always judge a movie independently of any book it is based on, to be fair and impartial. Sadly, this makes 13th Warrior seem even worse. Even long scenes of blood, guts and fighting that seem to appease the general public don't save the movie.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 54 minutes, Rated R for bloody battles and carnage.

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