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on February 1, 2003
Film director John McTiernan's "The 13th Warrior" is such a frustrating film. There's much to love about this robust viking epic, including a handful of terrific actors with an appealing presence, excellent period detail, memorable battle sequences and a fantastic musical score by the always-dependable Jerry Goldsmith. But why did the studio editors have to cut this film to pieces?!
When watching this action movie, any viewer with half a brain can tell that multiple scenes must have been left on the cutting room floor. Supporting characters disappear without a trace, continuity is fragmented and illogical, the ending is abrupt and unsatisfying. At one point the vikings are traveling by ship, the next they are riding cross country on horseback.
So it's a pleasant surprise that even after such annoying studio interference, "The 13th Warrior" still succeeds on several levels. Based on Michael Crichton's novel "Eaters of the Dead," a whimsical interpretation of the Olde English tale "Beowulf," this film (like the book) changes the dragon into a cannibalistic horde of viscious warriors terrorizing a remote village. A ragtag group of vikings, in the best tradition of "The Magnificient Seven," soon come to the rescue with unwitting Arabic ambassador Ahmed (Antonio Banderas) in tow.
Several great scenes will stay with the viewer, among them Ahmed's touching dalliance with a willowy viking maiden (who disappears by the film's end), Ahmed's humorous camaraderie with his new viking friends, Bulvine's (Beowulf's) fatal stand prior to the final battle, and Omar Sharif's brief cameo at the film's beginning.
Bulvine's viking burial, which should have been one of the ultimate highlights of this film, is shown as if an afterthought during a far too brief montage. The relationship between Bulvine, aging warrior king Hrothgar and Hrothgar's wife (played by the talented Diane Venora), also appears to have been a victim of impatient editors. With the recent success of the "Lord of the Rings" films, it's obvious viewers have no complaints about sitting through a finely detailed epic fantasy, so it comes as a rather sad note that what could have been an equally superb fantasy film has been so severely butchered.
I would love to see a Director's Cut of "The 13th Warrior," with the missing scenes added. John McTiernan has proven his action muscle in the past with the underrated "Predator," and the creative "Die Hard." "The 13th Warrior" is a good film, and I enjoy watching it repeatedly. But with each viewing, I realize with frustration this should have been a great film. As a fantasy fan, I have been sold short by an unimaginative Hollywood system.
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on January 20, 2000
I originally heard pretty bad stuff about this movie -- Roger Ebert, for instance, said it was exciting yet plotless. After renting and seeing this the other night (which incidentally, prompted me to buy it) I have to disagree heartily.
What does the movie have? First, it has good character development. Most of the characters that matter (Buliwyf, Ahmed, etc.) are shown in detail and have growth and development. It is very well acted for the kind of movie it is. It is very interesting for it's portrayal of the Germanic heroic culture, and the values that infused it. I think this is where many critics fail to see the shine in the movie. Because they are unable to get themselves out of their modern cultural frame of reference, the actions of the characters sometimes seem unmotivated and the plot seems to suffer. As a student of ancient heroic societies and their literature, I understood right away what was going on with the characters.
For some flaws with the movie, some of the more interesting potential plot lines were alluded to but not followed through with. Banderas' romance, the intrigue with the son of the king, the possibility of the wendol as Neanderthals, as hinted in the book -- all would have made the movie *more* interesting than it already is, and would have, perhaps, given it a plot that had a little more relevance to modern audiences.
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on July 8, 2000
This is the film version of Michael Crichton's book EATERS OF THE DEAD. Told through the eyes of a young Arab ambassador Ahmahd ibn Fahdalan (Antonio Banderas) this is basically a retelling of one of literature's classic epics, Beowulf. Fahadalan is banished from his homeland for loving the wrong woman. On his journeys he meets up with some Norsemen and joins their encampment (look for Omar Sheriff in a small part as Translater.)
When they hear of trouble on one of their lands, the norsemen consult their oracle who tells them that 13 warriors must confront the evil (and of course the 13th chosen man must not come from the north). Thus Fahdalan is coerced into joining their ranks. What follows is a thrilling action/adventure Beowulf style as the group tries to battle against insurmountable odds to defeat the cannabilistic "Eaters of the Dead".
Besides from being well written adventure, it is a wonderful glimpse into norse culture and mythology. John McTiernan shows us a time filled with brave but very human characters where fealty to your lord and land meant everything -- where fighting for the greater good was more important than any one man's life. This is a story of courage and survival that is at times mesmeririzing to watch.
It's main weakness is that it was unanble to fit in all the nuances and relationshop complexities that the book described so well. Many key definative moments and characterizations (most notably the cultures of the norsemen and their relationship with their new arab "little brother") are lost or edited out. This I believe was not so much the fault of the director but of the studio who rushed to get the film released. My other complaint is with the DVD version of the film, which SHOULD have included an audio commentary of some kind, and preferably some of the deleted scenes which would have developed the film more thoroughly. This it is worth seeing for fans of epic adventure and mythology. Here's hoping for a Director's cut of The 13th Warrior to be released soon.....
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on June 25, 2002
Based on Michael Crichton's adventure novel "Eaters of the Dead," John McTiernan's much underappreciated film is not only a worthy adaptation of Crichton's book, but one of the best action movies of the past fifteen years.
Antonio Banderas stars as an outcast Arab poet who falls in with a band of Viking adventurers. When word reaches the Vikings that one of their castles is under siege from a legendary foe too terrible to be named, their shaman dictates that Banderas must accompany the Norsemen on their relief mission or it will be doomed to failure. And so, the lucky number 13 in the flesh, Banderas embarks on an incredible adventure in which he must learn to fight or die, and comes face to face with the ultimate taboo: cannibalism.
This movie was not a blockbuster, but it should've been. The script is intelligent , the performances realistic, the sets lavish, and most importantly the action is just incredible. Moreover, the story is noteworthy for its largely credible depiction of Viking life, which may have been barbaric to some but which had its own unique and inimitable charm--which Banderas comes to slowly appreciate for himself, particulary Viking mead and Nordic women. The intense Norse belief in heroism and honor is prominent in this movie, and the Viking leader's last stand is both moving and powerful.
Crighton based his own novel on the ancient tale of Beowulf, and "The 13th Warrior" is a more than admirable retelling of that undying legend. Highly recommended to all action fans.
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It was like the stealth movie. Antonio Banderas (Zorro) starring in a movie based on a Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) book and . . . nothing. Most people never even heard of this film that inexplicably slid right through the box office with barely a whimper. But they missed a good one.
The 13th Warrior is loosely based on the Crichton novel Eaters of the Dead. Banderas plays an Arab of high birth who is banished from his people for falling in love with the wrong woman. He is sent as an ambassador to the barbaric people of the North where he meets up with a dangerous, yet fairly affable group of Vikings.
The plot gains speed when a child seeks out the leader of the Vikings to help defend a different Viking kingdom from an evil force. When an oracle determines that 13 warriors must go to combat the evil, Banderas is drafted because the 13th warrior must not be a northman. The thirteen "volunteers" head north to combat the evil force that decapitates and eats its victims.
Make no mistake, this is a violent, bloody movie. But in the best tradition of classic fantasy, it is engaging and exhilarating. The battle scenes seemed to be filmed from the midst of the action, and the blows appear frighteningly real. The sword play is direct and brutal. This movie aims for a dark, serious tone and largely achieves it.
Though the action scenes are terrific, the most appealing part of this film is the Viking characters. Though many of the roles are filled by unknown talent, the performances are right on. The Vikings are violently repulsive, yet decidedly brave, noble, and loyal. They, like the movie, are decidedly smarter and more subtle than they would initially appear. Banderas' Arab character goes from outsider to warrior as he slowly adopts the noble courage of his Viking companions.
I'm sure most critics dismissed this film as meaningless violence. But it's much more than that if you take the time to look.
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on August 16, 2001
The 13th Warrior is, without a doubt, the most underrated film of 1999 - and perhaps one of the most underrated of all time, for that matter. It came and went at the box office and has also received a lackluster DVD edition that includes very few interesting features. However, the film itself is top notch. It is a thinking man's action picture, a historical fantasy, an intriguing mystery, a Braveheart-style epic, and a brilliant retelling of Beowulf all at once.
The plotline revolves around Antonio Banderas who portrays a refined but very exiled Arab courtier who by chance encounters a band of Vikings on their way to rid a King's lands of an evil that they will not name. Banderas is chosen to accompany them to the King's realm and assist them in their battle against this nightmarish enemy who feeds on the flesh of its vanquished foes. From there, this passionate and thrilling adventure begins. All of this is, of course, based on the novel "Eaters of the Dead," by Michael Crichton. Though the film adaptation and the novel part ways at several points, they are excellent companions to one another - not unlike Banderas and the Vikings. I recommend both novel and film equally and highly, and one only furthers the enjoyment of the other.
The 13th Warrior is such an overwhelming experience that it racks up an amazingly lengthy list of praises. The cinematography is breath-taking and captures a mysterious, beautiful, and ancient landscape in a way that film seldom can; Jerry Goldsmith's score is rousing, inspiring, and very worthy of notation; Banderas and the film's other key players give wonderful and convincing performances; the battle sequences are first rate, as are the rest of the film's production values... The list goes on and on. Truly, the film's only weakness comes from the fact that sometimes it seems to presume that all those who are viewing it have read the book beforehand, and therefore gives less description to certain cases and places and things than it probably should. The pacing is somewhat quick and jerky near the beginning as well. None of this detracts all that much, though, from the resounding experience that is The 13th Warrior. The 13th Warrior belongs next to the likes of Gladiator, Braveheart, and Conan the Barbarian, and it is a crying shame that the movie seems to have drawn so little attention to itself. This is absolutely one of the best fantasy films ever made - and for those who do not like fantasy, it has all the makings of a "what-if?" war picture of epic proportions. This is a major motion picture achievement that demands your attention. John McTiernan and Michael Crichton deliver the goods, and then some.
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on March 12, 2000
This is a difficult film to review. Firstly, I must commend the filmmakers for excellent and sympathetic acting, wonderful cinematography, a gripping musical score, and solid writing. The films does keep one's attention well.
This is the problem.
"The 13th Warrior" gives the very strong impression of being a film that has been edited nearly to death, and given the careful attention that is given to the remaining portions, I strongly suspect that the director had little to do with the butchering. There are several subplots which are introduced and never resolved. Allusions are made to pre-christian Nordic culture and religion, but these are unsatisfactorily developed. When the film ended at approximately one hour and forty minutes, I watched the rolling credits with a growing sense of disappointment. This film could and SHOULD have been much longer, giving time to flesh out the rich history and culture which served as the film's setting. The casting and direction are excellent, and could easily sustain audience attention for another hour and half (or more).
I do recommend that the film be viewed, but until a director's cut (hopefully one replete with some obviously missing scenes) is released, I would not recommend actually purchasing it.
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on January 30, 2000
The 13th Warrior, directed by John McTiernan, is the tale of young Arab ambassador Ahmahd ibn Fahdalan (Antonio Banderas), who's banished from his homeland for loving the wrong woman. On his journeys he meets up with an encampment of Norsemen who's King has just died. Fahadalan (Banderas) is swept into becoming the 13th man of a group burdened with having to travel back to their homeland to confront an evil threat that's bound in such superstition they're forbidden to speak its name. After being prophesied by a soothsayer witch that 13 warriors must confront the evil (and of course the 13th chosen man must not come from the north), Banderas is suddenly thrown in with these heroes (somewhat against his will). Thus, the Norsemen and Banderas engage in a Beowulf style journey into battle against insurmountable odds. I found myself becoming deeply involved with this group as they experienced their perils. I did read "Eaters of the Dead" and this movie follows it pretty closely. Weakness will be found in the the development of the characters and the Norsemen traditions and way of life... which the book describes in more detail. This single issue probably is the weak portion of the film... for the book having included these missing aspects... allows you to have a deeper understanding as to why Banderas and the Norsemen act as they do. However, even without those things I mentioned... this is still a good action/adventure movie. One that I would call a sleeper... for I had heard that it was not that good. Obviously, you will need to make the decision for yourself... but, this movie is definitely worthly of a decision. Beware of gore and violence... because this movie does have them... although, I was amazed that it did not reflect the portrayl of women correctly from the book... remember, this was Norse culture... women were possessions for all practical purposes. Other note worthly aspects... included the positive portrayl of Arabs... as being very well educated and mannered ... which was especially true during this time period. Finally, this is no "Braveheart"... but, alas, it was never meant to be.
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on February 14, 2002
Unfairly savaged by the professional critics, THE 13TH WARRIOR is easily one of the best films in the genre. I enjoyed it far more than I did GLADIATOR. Most critics seemed to review the budget and the films troubled history rather than giving an objective view on the movie itself. This movie has more atmosphere, a better soundtrack, likable characters and more interesting locations, it's a far better movie all round. The scenes where they infiltrate the enemies haven are amazing. Something else that I found pleasing is that for a movie where a group of people are thrown together to fight an evil force they haven't just drawn the characters as say, the smart arse guy, the nasy guy who won't take orders from anyone, the nice and sweet guy, the nervous guy as in films like ALIENS which I think is overated in the extreme partly for that reason. In this film they all know they have a job to do and they work together to try and get it done. That's not to say that the characters don't have personalities, it's just that they are more subtle and realistic without every charcter being some obvious stereotype. The battle scenes are bloodthirsty, brutal and chaotic, which is the way they should be, although this is in no way the all action no story crapfest some have said it to be. I have recommended and shown the film to many people and literaly no one has been disappointed.
The DVD is another story, while the picture quality is excellent the disc no extras of any note, hopefully John McTiernan's longer cut of the film will see the light of day sometime and be put out in a special edition, but i'm not holding my breath.
I recommend this film without hesitation.
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on December 17, 2009
How refreshing it is to watch this band of intelligent adult white males traveling half a continent and a sea to battle an unspeakable evil. Knowing that many or all of them may be brutally destroyed, they persist with a jovial, steely determination. Why? Simply because this is what defines a man. Or did...
Step into a time-warp. The film's 103 minutes will seem as nothing. Multiple viewings are obligatory, as the story-line is so kinetic.
A rich potpourri of European actors, seldom seen on American screens, adds to the exotic nature of this work.

Author Michael Crichton and director John McTiernan, infected with the film's trench warfare, commenced their own. The final product obviously suffered a brutal postmortem. One can hope the reputed 50 odd minutes/body-parts which ended up on the morgue's floor will find the corpus at some future date. Though obviously hacked, it is still magnificent. It does what all good films do; takes you to another time and place and binds you to worthy protagonists.
At some point in your relationship with the film read Crichton's "Eaters of the Dead".
Based on the actual 922 A.D. journal of an ambassador of the Sultan of Baghdad, Ibn Fahdlan: The 13th Warrior. Astounding tale, if true.

Did Neanderthals survive the Pleistocene? Look around.
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