Unlucky 13 sours warrior film
Hollywood and the American movie-making business is certanly hurting for ideas with its remakes of such classic films as "Physco," "The Getaway" and "Sabrina." Though these films produce big box office bucks, they are fledgling attempts at recreating cinematic masterpieces.
John McTiernan, director of "Die Hard with a Vengeance," "The Thomas Crown Affair" and most recently "The 13th Warrior," obviously realized that a viking epic has not come out for some time. Especially with the success of "Braveheart," McTiernan figured it was his duty to the movie-going public to ressurect big ships with wooden shields hanging off the sides, along with burly vikings with long swords, hairy faces and pig-tailed red hair. What were once adventurous tales of love and heroic battle have turned into cheap, drawn-out stories that can usually be summed up from the movie trailer.
"The 13th Warrior" stars Antonio Bandaras ("The Mask of Zorro," "Evita" and "Desperado") as Ahmad Ibn Fahdlan, an Arab banished from his homeland who makes his way to a Norse camp. There, he is viewed as an outsider, subjected to jokes and harrassment.
But when an unnamed menace disrupts a peacful little town on the coast line, the scary witch/psychic explains that thirteen warriors must go to rescue the people and rid the land of this great danger. But the catch is that the 13th man must not be a Norsemen. Enter the Arab who is uneducated in the ways of the land and the monsters who inhabit it.
Professing that he is not a warrior but rather an educated poet, Ibn falls in with the gruff warriors with strange garb and even stranger eating and drinking habits. Along the way, Ibn picks up their language and becomes accostomed to their "live fast and die with glory" attitude.
At this point audiences are in high hopes of a big scary monster that will turn anybody and everybody who attacks it into soup. But the truth is that the great evil is merely a neighboring tribe of cannibals, numbering in the hundreds, who ride white horses and wear bear suits complete with heads, fangs and claws.
After being countlessly attacked by this huge and fiercesome force of cavemen dressed up in spooky bear outfits fit for Halloween, Ibn and his Viking crew decide to take the offensive and go after this insurmountable army to hopefully get the upper hand. It is Ibn's logic in figuring out where they live that leads the remaining warriors to the mother of the opposing clan.
The ending reveals itself to be exactly what is expected. The film is a decent action-adventure flick filled with disguised monsters that turn other brave men into raw hamburger meat dosed in A-1 sauce. An epic it is not.
Actress Diane Venora, who wowed with her ability in "Heat" and "Romeo and Juliet" is given a small part with not much room to explode as she usually does.
The film is very unbielvable even though Ahmad Ibn Fahdlan is based on a real historical figure who wrote detailed diaries of his run-ins with the Vikings and their villages. It seems odd that Banderas, one of the most popular Latin actors around the world, would portray this particular part with his thick accent.
"The 13th Warrior" is based on the Michael Crichton novel "Eaters of the Dead." The setting is great, but that's about it. Some pity must go out to those people who choose to pay full price for this mindless tripe. It goes to show that every type of film does not need to be recreated every few years.
Three out of five shamrocks.
All Scene Stories for Thursday, September 2, 1999