13th Warrior/B,A

Touchstone/199/103m/ANA 2.35

    There's a nice relationship built in the opening minutes of The 13th Warrior between Antonio Banderas playing the young Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan and older wise companion Melchisidek played by Omar Sharif. There's a fine tradition in action/adventure movies for this sort of older/younger character relationship. The 13th Warrior fails to cash in on this valuable early investment. Still, there's enough action currency and jangling energy to almost make you forget about Sharif's character.

Wish I could come with you, but you're the star. ŠTouchstone

A romantic mistake sets Ahmed on the road to adventure safely away from his native land.  When Ahmed is forced to join a pack of marauding Norsemen, his tenuous relationship as the weakest of the pack slowly turns through the wheel of superior knowledge and sophistication. Arriving in the homeland of a great Norse kingdom, the band join their comrades to defend the kingdom against a supernatural menace. Through ferocity and tenacity they defend the city against fear and terror. Each of the Norse captains uses his special abilities to repel the invaders. Banderas adds his Eastern savvy to the mix and the heroes make one last great stand to save the day. Did you ever have a doubt? The big question is can the Persian poet Ahmed wield a sword with the same grace as he can turn a phrase.
     Banderas is very well cast as The 13th Warrior. His swarthy slight frame and fiery intelligent eyes add strength and power to his character. He wields a sword with convincing authority and he is limber enough to make the action acrobatics seem real enough. Yes, he can romance the women. Vladimir Kulich and Dennis Storhoi play the hulking Vikings chiefs and they prove staunchly able in the acting and action department.
    Director John McTiernan is in sharp form, mounting tension with a fine sense of pacing and choreographing the action with fiery intensity. Crichton's script from his novel Eaters of the Dead is solid "B" material. It knows where it wants to go and delivers the tithe to viewers. The cinematography of Peter Menzies Jr. adds a grand scope to the big vision. 
    There are a lot of dark scenes, with fires flaring and swords catching the sparks of light. The DVD transfer of The 13th Warrior has a lovely contrast balance, providing ample light for grand shadow detail without blowing out brighter scenes. No unplanned surprises popping out from murky shadows on this DVD. Colors are lively, providing a wide palette for skin tones. The image is sharp enough to catch the glint in Banderas eyes.  Jerry Goldsmith's somewhat bombastic chords are almost as ferocious as the warriors. The music is given a bold treatment on the sound mix. Details are consistently direction and overall the Dolby Digital 5:1 mix adds to the production values of The 13th Warrior on DVD.



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