The Brunching Shuttlecocks Features

No Viking movie has ever won the Academy Award for Best Picture. That streak is not going to end this year.

From the deepest depths of Michael "Jurassic Park" Crichton's back-catalog of books comes the ill-advised flick, The 13th Warrior, a valiant-yet-useless attempt to make sense of his weirdest book, The Eaters of the Dead.

The story of The Eaters of the Dead (name changed to The 13th Warrior to satisfy the necessary "is" factor of moviedom. "Antonio Banderas IS The 13th Warrior" sounds a lot better than "Antonio Banderas IS The Eater of the Dead.") is simple: A banished Arab Diplomat joins up with a bunch of Vikings to travel north and defend a town of more Vikings from a bunch of creatures who eat the dead.

When I read this book 6 years ago I remember thinking, "Wow. Here's one Michael Crichton novel they'll never make into a film." How wrong I was. Truth told, they couldn't make it fast enough, and in so doing, made it too fast. This film was finished and ready to be released in April of 1998. They then put it on hold because, well, it just isn't a very good movie. Not surprising, because it isn't really a very coherent book.

However, being a Viking film, there is plenty of blood, gore and assorted limbs hacked off in every scene to appease the masses. See, the Vikings were basically a bunch of really big white guys who drank a lot and liked to fight. Sort of an ancient Redneck, if you will. Now, if you just want to watch Olaf slash Sven's guts open, then this baby is for you. But you could get almost the same joy from watching America's Funniest Home Videos.

The problem with this movie is that it's so dumb. The gang needs advice, so they go see the old witch who's basically a Viking Yoda. "Oh! The leader you seek! Yes! Kill him you must!" Then they all go hiking up into the woods and run into the Blair Witch totems. Whatever. There's a big fight scene where the good guy and his 6-foot sword face off against a bad guy armed with a six-inch claw. Aw come on, this is supposed to be dramatic?

Banderas is an Arab, and doesn't speak the language of the Vikings, so he sits by the campfire for a few nights and picks it up by listening to the other Vikings swear and curse. Now I'm sure that if you sat with Vikings for a few days, you'd pick up the ability to say things like "food," "fart" and "gut him." But I doubt you'd be able to enter into a meaningful dialogue comparing the Nordic and Arab religions. Still, he needed to learn their language so that the other actors could start talking in English for the rest of the movie, so there ya go. Whatever.

Another thing. It's too dark. Most of the battles are either at night or in a cave, and you can't see a darned thing. What, just because the Vikings never invented electricity the Director couldn't use a flood light?

Oh, about the director. It's John McTiernan, one of my favorites. He directed Die Hard and The Hunt For Red October. He's a good action director. Unfortunately, he left the film before it was completed over "artistic differences" and author Michael Crichton finished it. So instead of Crichton's book - as seen by McTiernan, we get Crichton's book - as seen by McTiernan until Crichton decided that McTiernan wasn't seeing it right so Crichton tried to piece together McTiernan's footage to salvage Crichton's vision. Again, whatever.

The film is filled with whatevers. There's a nice romantic subplot that builds and builds and culminates into a sweet shot of the morning after and then we barely ever see the chick again. Talk about Wham, Bam, here's your SAG card Ma'am.

Still, the movie is not all bad. A number of people get beheaded. That's cool. There are some good horse tricks. Although if anyone can tell me why Antonio walks his horse sideways in one scene, please fill me in. The only reason I came up with was it made for a good camera angle.

I'm giving The 13th Warrior 1 6/7 Babylons. Not the worst movie ever made, but not very good, even by Viking movie standards.

Editor's Note:

Last night I read that Entertainment Weekly gave this movie an A-, so I was expecting this morning to get a glowing review on my desk from the SMC. If you've been looking, this review should give you a reality benchmark by which to judge the SMC. I hope that you read the SMC's reviews for ENTERTAINMENT ONLY.

Also, thanks to all of you who wrote to The Editor explaining that each of the names listed after Bruce Willis in the SMC's "starring" section of his Sixth Sense review were THINGS THAT WERE DEAD. However, when did Olivia Williams and Haley Joel Osment die? They were so good in the movie! I must read the newspaper more. *Sniff*.

the 13th Warrior
Rated: R
Directed By: John McTiernan (and sorta also by Michael Crichton.)
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Omar Sharif and guys named Vladimir, Mischa, Asbjorn and Sven.

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