The film is narrated by Ahmad ibn Fadlan (Antonio Banderas), a Muslim Arab who was punished into exile as an ambassador to the Northlands. While there, he is forced to become the 13th Warrior on a quest to stop the malevolent Wendel from their non-stop slaughter of men.
So what did I think?
What I Didn’t Like
- It is unfortunate that Crichton decided to use a Muslim to frame/narrate the story rather than a Christian. He was basing his story on Beowulf and a Christian character would have better served as narrator since a Christian narrator is featured in The Poem.
- Ahmad ibn Fadlan’s “final prayer” scene best reflects a “Confiteor" prayer used in the Mass of the Roman Catholic Church, not in Muslim prayer.
- Hrothgar’s name is pronounced with a weak “H” but I would have preferred a guttural!
- There is some really cheap CGI (SyFy Original movie quality) right in the beginning of the film. Almost every other effect is practical, so if feels out of place.
What I Liked
- Crichton changed the name of the cast of characters. Most notably, Beowulf is now Buliwyf (pronounced “bull-vi”). The author was going for a more historical feel, so this works well.
- Despite my previous comments, having a Theist Muslim’s perspective contrasting with the pagan beliefs of the Northmen works very well. It creates tension and intrigue.
- The music score is awesome.
- The detailed sets, locations and historical details are wonderful.
- The first third of the film deals heavily with languages. While this sounds rather dull, the filmmakers made this very dynamic.
- In the background of the second Wendel attack, one of the Northmen is seen lifting up and rolling a horse! The fight scenes feel fluid, gritty and “naturally awesome.”
- The final prayer before battle (see below) is a particularly strong and moving moment.
I actually really like this film. I suppose the characterization could have been stronger, but this is actually one of my favorite films. The story, the action, and the script are enjoyable and engaging.
The 13th Warrior, unlike The Poem, has a happy ending. But, then again, this movie is really about Ahmad ibn Fadlan and features Beowulf.
With the strong religious themes, the film gives viewers quite a bit to talk about concerning the contrasting beliefs of the characters in the film which will most likely also contrast with the viewer’s beliefs.
Rating: 5/5 (I Loved It)
Note: Rated R for bloody battles and carnage