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vikings v . bears ?
no , this isn't the lineup for monday night football .
rather , these are the two opposing forces that will battle to the death in " the 13th warrior , " a film that is as dramatically flat as it is gratuitously gory .
based on michael crichton's book , eaters of the dead , this viking saga tries to evoke the mysticism of fabled norsemen and the glorious battles that they fought .
their strength and honor would eventually etch their place in history among the greatest warriors that ever picked up a sword .
luckily for the vikings , however , their warring abilities were not as clumsy as this film .
antonio bandaras is ahmed , a travelling ambassador .
accompanied by his friend ( omar shariff in a cameo ) , they eventually come across a small viking village .
we see that the vikings are an extremely proud group whose greatest strength is their fortitude .
they laugh heartily , revel in their arrogance , and sing songs of battles won .
but their festivities are about to be halted when a messenger boy arrives to tell the village leader that a great evil is threatening their land .
help is needed quickly .
an elderly , fortune-telling witch arrives .
after a brief incantation , she proclaims that 12 warriors and one more " not of norse blood " are needed to ensure victory .
personally , i always wonder why people believe these oracles when they look so haggardly and on the brink of insanity .
nonetheless , 12 men eagerly accept their place while ahmed becomes the pivotal 13th .
the group then sets out to do the greatest battle of their lives .
of course during their ride , ahmed becomes the target of fun for the other 12 burly viking warriors .
but he ably shows that it's not the size of the dog in the fight but rather the size of the fight in the dog .
he is able to overcome the proud arrogance of the vikings , but will his skills ( and that of the group ) be enough to defeat whatever evil is menacing the countryside ?
it does not look promising .
these creatures , resembling bears , are strong and have high morale .
they are fearless and display a desire for decapitating the heads of their enemies .
they attack by the hundreds and the next strike will come soon .
the warriors prepare their defenses and pray to their gods .
they are ready to sacrifice their lives .
" this is a good way to die , " says one of the fallen warriors .
despite the larger-than-life battle sequences , i was unmoved by the entire experience .
at many points , i was even confused .
for example , somewhere in the middle of the film , a sub-plot creeps up involving the prince of the threatened land .
he seems to have an agenda to elevate himself to greater power during this crisis .
however , the sub-plot never fully materializes , and we are left scratching our heads as to the purpose of its inclusion .
there are other questions that i had , but the real problem was that the story ( little of it that there was ) offered no characters to love or hate .
the leader of the viking warriors had the most charisma .
however , banderas's role is completely underwritten and it is unclear why being the 13th warrior makes him so special .
an entire rewrite of the ahmed character is in order .
also , much of the action takes place during torrential downpours or at night , which made battles very difficult to follow .
i would have preferred more time looking at the viking culture and how their beliefs shaped their decision to do battle against the enemy .
as it stands , the film manages more confusion than intensity .
it would make thor cry .