Thursday, November 27, 2014

Movie #282: The 13th Warrior

The 13th Warrior is an action/fantasy movie based on a Michael Crichton novel, and starring Antonio Banderas, Vladimir Kulich, Dennis Storhoi, and Omar Sharif. Reportedly Sharif was so disappointed with this movie that he retired from acting for a period after its release. I dunno, I didn't think it was that bad.

The movie follows the travels of Ahmed ibn Fahdlan (Banderas), an Arab courtier made ambassador to the savage northlands after he, liked, looked at a woman wrong. He and his mentor (Sharif) meet up with some Norseman, just before Bulyif (Kulich) becomes king. Ahmed gets roped into going with 12 other warriors, deeper into the northlands, to combat a terrifying race of monsters called the Wendol. They all have some personality, but the one that he bonds with is Herger (Storhoi).

Eventually, they find the monsters - actually a primitive race of people that live in caves. There are several bloody battles, but eventually the warriors tromp into said caves, kill the Wendol's "mother" (actually a young woman, because they filmed it with an old woman and it didn't test well), and then fall back to their encampment, where Bulyif, dying of poison from the woman's claw, manages to live long enough to kill their war-chief. Bad guys flee, movie ends with Fahdlan writing the story.

This movie was a huge flop, apparently. It was originally going to be released as Eaters of the Dead (after the title of the novel), but test audiences hated it, so Crichton got involved and rejiggered it, and then it was better, but it was still not especially well-reviewed. And I have to say, there are issues. It kind of plods along at this weird pace, the action scenes are OK but jumpy, and it completely wastes Sharif.

But that said: It does spend a little time addressing the language barrier and showing us Fahdlan learning the warriors' language. We do see some camaraderie born. There's no magic montage showing us Fahdlan becoming a warrior; he apparently has some training, but not with the huge heavy weapons that the warriors use. Oh, and, most importantly, he doesn't save them. Their king is the one that goes into the hole to kill the monsters, gets poisoned in the process, and then takes on the war chief. Fahdlan is the POV character and the narrator, but not the central figure. And he's Muslim, and keeps and practices his faith the whole way through. Now, he's played by a Spaniard, not an actual Arab actor, but you can't have everything, I guess (and at least he's not white).

Also, Michelle informs me that the Latin dialog actually parses fairly well, but I wouldn't know.

My Grade: B-
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: The Dark Crystal