"The 13th Warrior" had everything going for it yet got no traction at the box office. Take a story by Michael Crichton ("Jurassic Park", "Westworld", "Andromeda Strain" and too many others to count, including the famous "ER" on television) get John McTiernan ("Predator", "The Hunt For Red October", "Die Hard" and many others) to direct it and get Antonia Banderas ("Interview with the Vampire", "Desperado", "The Mask of Zorro") to star in it, give them all a big budget and it should be instant success.
Instead, it went nowhere, losing as much as $100 million(!) for the studio. No matter, you can get it for basically nothing at "NetFlix" and you'll enjoy a terrific Halloween movie.
Crichton is well regarded for his adventurous plots backed up by kernels of solid science. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard, received his MD from Harvard Medical School, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. He later anthropology at Cambridge University and writing at MIT. He is the closest thing to science royalty in fiction.(1)
"The 13th Warrior" is not along the lines of the future of computers, a la "Westworld" or medicine or biology, like other works, but rather a straight adventure story with a science basis - namely that, at the time of the story in 922 A.D., Neanderthal man has not died out. He called it "Eaters of the Dead", which is not a great title for an American movie that isn't a slasher film, and during filming they changed the title to be more reflective of the plot.
But the plot is essentially Beowulf. However, what Crichton does is fun in its own right. Banderas is Ahmad ibn Fadlan, the historical traveler and chronicler of Viking ways for the Caliph of Baghdad. After being sent among them, and a plea for help coming to them, a soothsayer declares that he is the necessary '13th' member necessary for their efforts to be successful, even though he is not a warrior. So it goes from there.
I won't reveal all of the details but it's a gorgeous movie to watch - the acting is perfect, the photography is incredible and if Vikings were anything like these guys, you'll want to be one of them. And it's gripping from start to finish. Crichton declared himself quite happy with its translation to film, a rarity among book authors.
Enjoy it for the anthropology and the action, but as an interesting trivia note, it is also the origin of a science prank that has outlived Crichton. Crichton listed the "The Ahmad Tusi Manuscript", kept at the University of Oslo, in his bibliography as being the source of this story - which was more fun than saying 'I wanted to write a better version of Beowulf for my friends'. The name of the translator of that work is listed as Fraus Dolus, which are two Latin words meaning both 'hoax' and 'fraud' but, regardless, every year the University of Oslo sends letters to enquirers wanting to access it that the book does not actually exist.
(1) His disagreement with the more outrageous claims of the global warming community earned him the ire of the agenda-based segment of the science community, unfortunately a group that is loud and prolific on the Internet. He died in 2008 when vilification of 'deniers' (anyone who disagreed with even the most ridiculous projection) was in full force and his more modest projections of global warming, which earned him contempt in those dark days of 2004-2007, are now acknowledged while the extreme projections he disputed have been shown to be lacking a basis in evidence.
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