Eaters of the Dead or what was re-titled The 13th Warrior came to theaters in 1999. Critics, particularly Roger Ebert, savaged it, but over the decades a cult following grew and many came to love this story that treated us to a good amount of butchery.
In cinema we are given a story about travelers, and bravery, the sons of weak lords, sword play, foul play and even cannibals and kings. On screen we get Norsemen and battle smoke, a terrible foe, brotherhood, jokes and its accompanying laughter, we even get a leader who gives an impressive speech to rise up, to be warriors and to defeat an unguessable foe. His kinsmen stand to serve a dying man of a dying breed. Men like Buliwyf tend to be honorable and rare indeed.
What’s not to like about a movie about heroes and cavemen? The movie with so much promise delivers many dislikes; audiences waited for an awesome buildup to what could have been a truly brutal and kinetic fight but the disjointed camera work was underwhelming indeed; the director even experimented with hand held cameras for the final battle scene.
The subplot of clan politics is never explored yet this too had promise. Those who know that director McTiernan’s cut of the film conflicted with author Michael Crichton’s vision will forgive the movie for its small failures. In the end what makes the plotless movie so good is the viewer lends it value, because most men can relate to these kinds of simple tales and so too the ambition of these normal men grows on you.
A confluence of a couple of good elements make this thin film actually viewing worthy. It is a tale of a small band of brave men willing to investigate what brought devastation to a terrified people, even risking their own lives to obtain the answer. The biggest draw here is these men don’t have super powers and so we can relate to them. Many of the Norse men die. As Chesterton wrote, a courageous man needing to cut his way out from enemies surrounding him must, “combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying.” “he must desire life like water, and yet drink death like wine.” Which reminds me of a funny moment in the movie when Ahmad Ibn Fadlan is told Meade is made from honey. Yes, the movie is sweet.
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