Reviewed by: Deanna Marquart
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Diane Venora, Dennis Storhøi, Vladimir Kulich, Omar Sharif | Director: Michael Crichton and John McTiernan
“The 13th Warrior” is the screenplay make of the book Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton (author of “Jurassic Park”) which itself is based off the remaining fragments of an actual report written in the 10th century by Ahmad Ibn Fadlan of his adventures with a company of Norsesmen. This means that “The 13th Warrior” is an historical drama. Keeping this in mind allows the viewer to look past this movie from “typical Hollywood fare” to an educational experience—if you may. It did for me, at least.
Ahmad Ibn Fadlan was an Arab courtier in powerful city of Baghdad, exiled, under the guise of being made an ambassador, when the Caliph discovered the queen had eyes for Ahmad. Along the way of his journey, he and his caravan come upon a Viking (Norsemen) encampment. The people warmly receive the party as their guests, and the young Arab himself learns, much to his chagrin (as well as to the audience, I might add!), of their culture and customs. Not many days later, a messenger arrives from further north, seeking aid from a “nameless terror” which is invading their land. This “terror,” Ahmad Ibn (called simply “Ibn” by the Norsemen) is later to understand, is the mythical Wendol, creatures so fierce they eat the dead; they even have the power to summon the fire-breathing glowworm dragon for their purposes.
Ibn is forced to join the ban of twelve who arose to the challenge, including the new chieftain, for their soothsayer had foretold that thirteen must go, and “one must be no Northman,” making him the thirteenth warrior. (No pressure!) Thus begins Ibn’s journey where he would not dare tread, but through the journey he learns more of these people, and they learn of him and come to value his aid.
Though an intriguing movie, I found it a little hard to stomach for its spiritual content as well as for the graphic battle scenes. Twice, the Norsemen rely on soothsayers for guidance, and Ibn frequently refers to Allah. Realistically, however, there is not much Christian perspective that can be gained from the account of an Arab amidst Vikings! But one does gain a new perspective on these people. I know for me, this is the first account of Vikings I have seen which shows them as just regular people who happen to be fierce as opposed to mere “bloody barbarians.” And these men did give their lives to defend another’s territory.
The violence in this movie is graphically realistic of medieval warfare, which is quite gory (I’ll spare you the bloody details). Another “realism” is the revelry of the Norseman, which includes drinking and carousing. To the filmmakers' credit, though, there is no nudity or focused sexual interaction, other than seeing Ibn and another woman awaking from under the same blanket. As for the language, I was not carrying a foul-language-meter with me, so I cannot provide such details. Suffice that it played no major role in the dialogue.
In summary, if you enjoyed such movies as “Glory” and “Braveheart” you will also enjoy this movie (but please pray a guard over your heart for occult involvements of the film). If these were not your types of movies, then leave this one alone.