The 13th Warrior 1999 Movie Scene Vladimir Kulich as Buliwyf, the Viking leader in an armor and furry coat

The 13th Warrior [1999]

As one of the rare Viking flicks that’s good, The 13the Warrior is probably my favorite fantasy movie. I still remember watching for the first time and this sense of unease and suspense enveloping me. Granted, I was much younger and easily swayed back then but that’s not the point. The point is that if you’re willing to immerse yourself into this epic, you’ll be greatly rewarded. Sure, this could’ve been a masterpiece considering its crew and source material but what we got, in the end, is actually quite good. As you would expect from a movie about Vikings, it’s more male-oriented with a lot of testosterone flowing about.

The 13th Warrior is based on Michael Crichton’s 1976 novel Eaters of the Dead. And the novel is based on Beowulf combined with Ahmad ibn Fadlan’s historical account of the Volga Vikings. It’s a beautiful blend of Arabic mysticism and Norse mythology, updated and streamlined for the big screen. With a budget of over $100 million, they really went nuts with the sets and special effects. So, if the movie is visually stunning and it’s got one hell of a story why isn’t it a masterpiece. Well, they went for the whole commercial action blockbuster vibe instead of gripping storytelling, that’s why. Still, there’s enough meat on the bones here to keep you occupied for ninety minutes.

After living in the East, Ahmad ibn Fadlan now finds himself in Europe, near the Volga river. As an envoy of the Caliph of Baghdad, he meets a strange tribe of Norsemen facing a deadly threat in their homeland. An evil that must not be spoken has arisen and must be dealt with. They force Ahmad to go along with them to try and help them defeat it.

Directed by John McTiernan (Predator, Die Hard), The 13th Warrior features epic scenes and an incredibly immersive atmosphere. I couldn’t help imagining what was it like to travel these strange lands you know nothing about. To meet people so different and yet so similar to yourself. This is what the movie does really well and just for this one thing, it’s worth seeing. Braveheart and Gladiator are definitely better crafted and have well-developed characters. But they lack this air of mystery and almost fairytale elements we see here.

The basic premise is similar to the Lord of the Rings novels although that’s a common structure for fantasy stories. Finally, we have the whole Seven Samurai thing where they have raise defenses around the village to fend off attackers. Just another part of this engaging and intriguing movie. So be sure to check it out and if you like to continue in the same fashion check out Beowolf starring Christopher Lambert.

Director: John McTiernan

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Vladimir Kulich, Omar Sharif, Dennis Storhøi, Daniel Southern, Asbjørn ‘Bear’ Riis

Fun Stuff: Herger (Dennis Storhøi) almost drowned during the underwater section. Antonio Banderas jumped into the water and pulled him out of the water and saved his life.


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