The Thirteenth Warrior (13th Warrior) Review
By Joe Lozito
What are Michael Crichton and John McTiernan (both known for sleek, hyper-technical thrillers) doing making a monosyllabic story about 10th century Norse warriors battling a nameless evil horde? The answer is: nothing new.
The film, "The Thirteenth Warrior", is based on Mr. Crichton's 1976 novel "Eaters of the Dead" and directed by Mr. McTiernan with his usual slick, competent style. There are actually several beautiful shots of the mountains and valleys around which most of the film's action takes place (it was filmed in British Columbia).
Since Mr. Crichton is involved, the film has many well-thought out battle scenes, the tactics are clever, the characters are thin, and the plot (as one character puts it) boils down to "we ride until we find them and then we kill them all". Since this is, after all, a time when people were named for their characteristics (Herger the Joyous, Rethel the Archer, etc), Mr. Crichton may have found the perfect venue for his particular brand of character underdevelopment.
Antonio Banderas stars as Ibn the Eyelinered. The film thrives on the fact the Mr. Banderas oozes charisma out of every scowling close-up. He adds as much levity to the proceedings as possible and, working with the film's ostensible "fear of the unknown" theme, he attempts to travel a character arc in between the swordplay and beheadings. He is even given a would-be love interest who spends most of the time looking worried that Mr. Banderas won't return from the current battle.
Since the film was produced by Mr. Crichton and Mr. McTiernan, it would seem as though it were a pet project for them. Mr. McTiernan's best efforts ("The Hunt for Red October", "Die Hard") succeeded on the interplay between the film's hero and villain. In "Thirteenth Warrior", however, there is no real villain. Instead, there is a travelling band of pure evil with Bear masks and claws and a penchant for decapitation. With such a cardboard enemy, there is very little to root against, or for.