The 13th Warrior (1999)

The 13th Warrior (1999)
  • Time: 102 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | History
  • Director: John McTiernan
  • Cast: Antonio Banderas, Vladimir Kulich, Dennis Storhoi, Diane Venora


In AD 922, Arab courtier Ahmad Ibn Fadlan accompanies a party of Vikings to the barbaric North. Ibn Fadlan is appalled by the Vikings customs– their wanton sexuality, their disregard for cleanliness, their cold-blooded human sacrifices. And then he learns the horrifying truth: he has been enlisted to combat a terror that slaughters the Vikings and devours their flesh.

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  • By the late 90s, Mr. Antonio Banderas had gained a name for himself. He was a foreign actor until Desperado (1995) and The Mask of Zorro (1998) had thrown him into the limelight. It almost seemed like he wouldn’t ever produce a film where people wouldn’t flock to go see. But as the saying goes, nothing lasts forever. Sadly, from what is now known, this movie is one of his biggest belly flops in his career. There’s good reason to understand why.

    The story is about an Arab named Ahmed (Banderas) that is banished from his homeland to end up joining a group of Norsemen to fight a common enemy. That’s it. The simplest of all plots. Loosely based on the epic poem Beowulf, many of the characters’ names resemble the poems’ counterparts. So for anyone who has read the story, some may have a better time figuring out what story arc will follow which character. It’s an interesting parallel but it isn’t special. Possibly one of the worst aspects of the film is the main antagonist. Reason being, there isn’t a main antagonist.

    The common enemy is a tribe or clan of what come off as cannibalistic bear people. They have no rhyme, reason or motive to why they do what they do. The only dialog heard by them is yelling and chanting, that’s it. There is a point where the warriors maneuver to kill the root of the clan but it is so weakly established that the it feels rushed to begin with. Also, the pacing is slow which makes it difficult for audiences to really feel like this is an adventure film. This is all understandable since this movie went through several reshoots and having a screenplay written by William Wisher Jr. I can’t understand why his works for the last half of 90sdecade is mediocre. In 1991 he wrote for James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991). What happened?

    There are some good elements though. Antonio Banderas is a big one, although perhaps this is another reason why this movie didn’t gather much attention. Antonio Banderas is cast into a film with a bunch of no name actors – is there a possibility of the movie performing well? Slim to none. Anyway, along with Banderas is Vladimir Kulich and Dennis Storhøi who also give the most memorable of performances in this movie. They both have their own charm – Kulich is like the early Chris Hemsworth before Thor (2011) and Storhøi is like a blond Johnny Depp with the same charisma. Those are the only two main characters besides Banderas that stood out to me.

    Credit should be given to Pat McCorkle for casting these actors though because a lot of Scandinavian actors were picked for these roles. As for action scenes go, when they finally do hit the screen, they are pretty exciting. The carnage and sword fights are always blood pumping which helps make the tense scenes that much more intense. Finally assisting these action scenes is Jerry Goldsmith’s score to the film. It is the usual Goldsmith sound but it’s still fun. Goldsmith even adds a bit of a middle-eastern theme into the music to cover Mr. Banderas’ role. It’s an ok watch but the story doesn’t carry much water.

    For action film, the pace is slow and the plot is bone dry. However, the actors do give their characters charm, along with some decent battles and appropriate music.

    Points Earned –> 6:10

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