We’ve been on a viking kick since we finished up the wonderful series following the life and descendants of Ragnar Lodbrok. So, when that was over, and we restarted it, we decided to add this fun movie to our list. Truth be told, I’ve seen this movie quite a few times, but Julie hasn’t. It doesn’t exactly fit our criteria for older movies we haven’t seen in awhile, but I’d still consider it a classic. We enjoyed it with our standard cherry old fashioned, roaring fire in the hearth, and sleep pupper on the couch between.
Released in 1999, The 13th Warrior is an adaptation of a Michael Crichton book titled Eaters of the Dead. Chrichton’s book is itself an adaptation, and mashup of Beowulf and Ahmad ibn Fadlan’s Volga Vikings. In the story, set some time in the nebulous past, Ahmad (Antonio Banderas) encounters a group of northmen on the Volga river after his exile from Baghdad. While there, a new king is crowned, Beliwyf (Vladimir Kulich) and a young boy shows up to beg help for his king who is beset by an evil back in Denmark. A seer is called in, who casts the bones, and determines that 13 warriors are needed to complete this quest. And yup, you guessed it, Banderas is the 13th.
Our party travels back to the realm of the Danish king, over land and sea. During the trip Ahmad learns the language of his companions in what is quite honestly a clever bit of movie montage. Somehow 13 men and 13 horses make the trip in a one-masted longship, but that’s the least of the issues with the movie’s setting beyond this point. It’s best that you look at this movie as more of a Dungeons and Dragons version of Beowulf set in a world that is kind of like Earth. There is nothing historically logical about…well, anything in this movie. Armor from various time periods, some of them centuries after Beowulf and the original Ahmad’s time. Absolutely ridiculous, massive Viking swords one expects to see on the cover of some fantasy tome. And horses, kept by supposedly primitive cannibals, in a cave complex, in a land so rocky and hilly that horses were practically useless.
If you go into it thinking D&D adventure versus historical anything, you’ll have a good time. You definitely do not want to look behind the curtain on this one. The story is actually pretty good, but more for how the action is shot and the story is laid out. The plot itself is pretty basic. A king and his village are besieged by orcs…primitive cannibals. A party of adventurers…Viking heroes form to conquer the evil. They go to the cave of said cannibals after a prophecy tells them that it’s actually the mother of the tribe who is the true threat. Our heroes descend into the cave, vanquish the boss, then back to the village for a final stand against the savage tribe of people they pissed off. No joke, it makes the perfect D&D adventure.
The thing with this movie is it’s not quite a cult classic, but it’s better than its box office showing implies. It’s not a great movie, but it’s great fun if you go into it with the right mindset. Put aside any idea that you’re going to get a faithful retelling of anything, or a movie that tries to be faithful to history. You’re going to get an action movie, with some good comedic moments, big guys swinging swords, and slow motion shots of Antonio Banderas. If you can do that, you’re bound to have a good time with this movie.