What happened to The 13th Warrior
? Directed by John McTiernan (Die Hard
), it's the tale of young Arab ambassador Ahmahd ibn Fahdalan (Antonio Banderas), who's vanquished from his homeland for loving the wrong woman. On his journeys he associates with a ragtag group of Vikings who are traveling back to their homeland to confront a nefarious threat that's cloaked in such superstition they're forbidden to speak its name. It is prophesied by a witch doctor that 13 warriors must confront the evil; however, the 13th chosen man must not come from the north. Suddenly Banderas is forced into the breach, somewhat against his will. More poet than battle-worn warrior, he must not only fight the aggressors but come to terms with the unfamiliar Norse culture. What follows is a vigorous and brutal adventure reminiscent of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai
. Sumptuous and invigorating battle sequences fill the screen from beginning to end as the brave Norsemen battle insurmountable odds.
Sounds good. So why did this film, once known as the Eaters of the Dead, sit on studio shelves for two years? Presumably because of the thoughtless editing that trimmed down the film to its bare bones, crafting an actionfest out of an epic. It's not often that you crave for a movie to be longer, but The 13th Warrior could've benefited from fleshing out of its subplots and characters. On the surface it's good eye candy with some fine pulse-quickening moments, and Banderas and the accompanying cast turn in sympathetic performances, epitomizing camaraderie in the face of impending doom. However, if you're looking for a good thematic tale from the Dark Ages (akin to Braveheart), you may be disappointed. --Jeremy Storey