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in " the 13th warrior , " arab poet ahmed ibn fahdlan ( antonio banderas ) finds himself kicked out of baghdad for feeling up the king's old lady .
with his translator ( screen legend omar sharif in a small role ) , ahmed heads north to act as ambassador to the northmen ( vikings ) .
he finds a group of warriors mourning the loss of their king .
a messenger soon arrives from another kingdom requesting assistance .
a soothsayer says that thirteen warriors must answer the summons , twelve northmen and one outsider .
thus , ahmed becomes the " 13th warrior . "
on the trip , ahmed manages to learn the vikings' language by listening to their fireside conversations .
a bit far-fetched , it's true , but we have to swallow it if this flick is going to manage a few lines of dialogue amidst the grunting .
ahmed , who's called " ibn " by the vikings , forms friendships with herger the joyous ( dennis storh ? i ) and the viking leader buliwyf ( vladimir kulich ) .
when they arrive in the other kingdom , the thirteen warriors discover that they're facing an army of supernatural cannibals that live up in the caves .
hereafter , most of the movie is battle scenes : the cannibals attack the vikings , the vikings attack the cannibals , the cannibals attack the .
well , you get the idea .
just to add some action , there's also a viking vs . viking duel .
other movies insert scenes between the fights ; these scenes are called character development .
i suspect that " the 13th warrior " had a better script at one time and that it fell through the cracks because of the tag-team direction .
the movie started off in the hands of john mctiernan ( you'll notice a lot of similarities between " warrior " and mctiernan's " predator , " including the chittering jungle sounds ) .
somewhere along the line , mctiernan bailed and michael crichton took over .
crichton , whose novel " eaters of the dead " is the basis for " warrior , " has directed a small assortment of goofy science-fiction " thrillers " : " westworld , " " coma , " " looker , " " runaway . "
their result of their consecutive efforts is a murky and pointless movie .
perhaps what " the 13th warrior " needs more than anything else is a villain .
the " eaters of the dead " are a faceless mob in blackface .
they have no personality , and by the end they don't even seem particularly threatening .
the audience has no target toward which to channel its aggression .
mctiernan should know about the importance of an interesting villain ; it was his " die hard " that made villains seem fun and attracted big-name stars to the evil roles in action films .
" the 13th warrior " suffers from a lack of vision .
it wants to be " predator " meets " braveheart " meets " the magnificent seven " meets " dances with wolves . "
with so many competing goals , all it can do is echo what it might have been .
it might have been a satisfying action film .
it might have been a beautifully-rendered medieval epic .
it might have been a thought-provoking examination of the meeting of cultures .
what a shame it turned out to be nothing in particular .
bottom line : if you want to see antonio swing his sword , rent " the mask of zorro . "