Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Vladimir Kullich, Dennis Storhoi, Omar Sharif, Richard Bremmer, Tony Curran, Clive Russell, Sven Wollter .USA. 1h 43m
Based on Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton
John McTiernan’s fantasy romp from the middle east to the icy hills of Scandanaiva is a bit of a guilty pleasure, the 1999 action adventure often falls apart with random acts but plot holes it’s still something to switch off and allow it to entertain you, then you’ll get on just fine, if you’re a thinker or armchair historian then this might just drive you nuts with its playful manipulation and I just can’t get over someone learning a language fluently in a couple of days..
Given that I’m not the real target audience I still get some pleasure from watching 12 burly warriors and Antonio Banderas swinging swords, riding horses and fighting against primitive evil folk.
John McTiernan’s track records includes a lot of full on bravado, such fan favourites as Die Hard (1988) Predator (1987) aNd Hunt For Red October (1990) but with this wealth of tough guy action and the addition of an uncredited Michael Crichton, I don’t think there’s a great way to get around the off key writing.
Banderas plays Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan, a supposedly gorgeous playboy who goes to far with the wrong rich and beautiful woman, in order to save his skin Melchisidek (Omar Sharif) has to drag him to a colder region of Europe. While adjusting to his new environment as a emaseary he’s troubled by the behaviour of his hairy northern friends, but after they are attacked by a mystical “wyrm” he is bound to them after the words of a wise woman” casts him as the 13th warrior of a group of hero’s who will save the good people of this terrible beast.
The group are tolerant and cool with their new friend, and slowly they all begin to learn from each other while cracking some jokes along the way and learning the best and worst of each culture, getting into scrapes together and slowly uncovering the mysteries of the mist monsters, a seemingly neanderthalic tribes and their link to the Wyrm.
While watching the 13th warrior you can see the link to many historical text some real like Beowulf and others, notorious hoaxes, Critons source novel for Easter of the Dead which this film is based on, is cited as the Ahmas Tusi Manuscript which is completely made up but believable enough to pass as an interesting story.
The sense of adventure turns into a dash of horror in the final chapter when the home of the wyrm is located and infiltrated, it’s not the show down that you’d expect after so much bravery but it’s quite bloody and finally really gory in contract to the upbeat fighting throughout the film, and to the credit of the effect team it just feels and looks great. Not only in action but the costumes and sets are quite accurate if not a little plush, there’s only a couple of plastic clips and the odd off coloured item here and there, but it feels genie in a broad sense. At times the film can be melodramatic, though it is dispatched with deliberation and passion. I think the movie’s downfall is that it just feels a bit Disney or upbeat Nickelodeon when it could have been a much tougher hard hitting movie.
Related: Bone Tomahawk (2015), Conan (1982), Beowulf (2007) Wolfhound (2006), DRAUG (2019)
Lists: Viking Cinema
Spotlight: Antonio Banderas, Tony Curran