Film Scouts Reviews

"The 13th Warrior"

by Thom Bennett

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Diane Venora, Omar Sharif,Vladimir Kulich, Maria Bonnevie, Mischa Hausserman, Sven Wollter, Dennis Storhøi, John DeSantis, Asbjørn 'Bear' Riis
Produced by John McTiernan, Michael Crichton, Ned Dowd.
Written by Michael Crichton, William Wisher.
Based on the novel "Eaters of the Dead" by Michael Crichton
Directed by John McTiernan.
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures.

There is no doubting the popularity of Michael Crichton as a writer. This does not mean, however, that every single thing he has ever written should be permanently committed to celluloid. Lest we forget "Congo"?

Based on Michael Chrichton's 1976 novel "Eaters of the Dead", "The 13th Warrior" tells the tale of Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan (Antonio Banderas) an Arab who is banished from his country for falling in love with the wife of the king. (Incidentally, this happens in the first minute and a half of the film.) When he meets up with a band of Norse warriors he is forced to join them on the quest to save their homeland from monsters that consume every living thing in their path. During their long journey North, Ahmed manages to gain their respect, somehow learns their language and becomes one with them as they must unite in their common cause to defeat these flesh eating creatures.

Completed well over a year ago, "The 13th Warrior" is more fiasco than epic. Supposedly after John McTiernan's version tested badly, scenes were reshot under the guise of Mr. Crichton himself. The result is a mess of a film with huge (repeat HUGE) holes throughout. The pacing of the film is a complete mystery - things either happen too quickly or take forever to unfold while the storyline could have taken place in anywhere from a few days to a few decades. You would have to assume that their journey would take several years, transportation being what it was back then. However, no indication is ever given as to how long a time period this film actually covers.

It seems as though there is a movement afoot to make Antonio Banderas into some kind of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. - a swashbuckler for the nineties. After both "The Mask of Zorro" and "The 13th Warrior", Mr. Fairbanks must be just about rolling over in his grave. Just when you begin to think it may be getting relatively interesting, the story manages to cease in favor of a sword fight. "The 13th Warrior" amounts to little more than a jumble of fire, horses and gory battle scenes. Between the constant flow of blood and mud and rain, you kind of feel dirty having just sat through it.

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