The one thing I did not expect in this trailer was Enigma:
13th Warrior is probably one of the best sword & sorcery movies made in a post-Conan the Barbarian America. The movie is also the best portrayal of Vikings ever, with one Viking in particular being hilarious all the time. I’m pretty sure his name is Herger and he displays a continual flippant stoicism that is one of the best outlooks to have in an action adventure movie.
There’s a lot of little interesting things about this movie. For one thing, there’s an emphasis on language. I think the way it works is that English is whatever language the protagonist can understand.
Wait, let me start from the beginning. Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park, wrote a novel called Eaters of the Dead. This was a retelling of Beowulf in a kind of realistic way, think of it as the Dark Knight of Beowulf. This was picked up to be made into a movie.
In a way it’s like 300 only written by someone who isn’t awful.
Ahmad ibn Fadlan is a poet, I think, who gets exiled from the Middle East due to his infidelities and is sent north to Viking country. Ahmad ibn Fadlan is great as an every man, and one of the reasons why I am on board with Antonio Banderas. His movie stable isn’t that strong, for me, but he himself is great. The reason why he is the everyman is because he comes from a civilized world where things make sense. Vikings live in a crazy mystical universe where nothing makes sense.
He falls in with some Vikings. And here’s one of the things that I really dig about this movie, they at least nod to language. They meet one Viking, Herger, who speaks either Greek or Latin and Ahmad ibn Fadlan ends up speaking to him through his friend. It’s just such a great detail and one that’s hard to integrate into movies, I know, but as a guy who studied Ancient Greek I love this thing about the Ancient World. People were really aliens to each other sometimes.
Ahmad ibn Fadlan gets recruited by the Vikings, well more like conscripted, into an adventure to save a village. Oh man, actually it’s very Seven Samurai in that sense. The Viking call him Ibn, not really understanding how Arabic names work, and not really caring either.
And that’s the best part of the movie really. The Vikings are barbarians yes, but it’s easy to dismiss barbarians as stupid. What the movie portrays is that barbarians aren’t dumb. It’s easy to dismiss them as that, but what they are is actually unrestrained. That makes them even more dangerous. They are also governed by a sometimes gleeful fatalism that gives them the kind of mindset a person needs to survive their insane world.
The way the movie does magic is great too because it straddles the line between magic and realism exactly where magic should exist in a realistic sense. They meet mythical figures and battle giant monsters, or do they?
The party is led by Buliwyf, who is fantastically acted. He doesn’t have a lot of lines, but he is great as the charismatic and distant leader, who is far smarter than one could expect, and far nobler than you could believe. He’s a perfect Beowulf.
Oh and another detail I loved: their armor. Seriously, watch the movie, and you’ll see each of the Viking wears very distinct, very different period pieces, of armor. It’s great because I think it hints at a larger world with a deeper history than the movie can show directly.
I’m a history nerd, obviously, but more than that I’m fascinated by the Ancient World. I just love this movie.
Now as a movie it’s good, though not great. It’s greatness comes from being what it is and being good at it. I can see perhaps why it was a box office failure, but man I love this movie. A lot of the movies I love, actually, are kind of box office failures.
Anyway, watch this instead of The Hobbit. No, seriously, save 9 hours and just watch this. It’s great and it’s basically The Hobbit. Seriously. You have a Hobbit, Antonio Banderas, and he goes on an adventure … with 12 crazy dudes… and fights a dragon-
Holy shit. THIS MOVIE IS A BETTER HOBBIT. I just blew my own mind.