Friday, 12 December 2008

Underrated Movies - part 1

Directed by: John McTiernan
Written by: William Wisher Jr.
Based on the novel 'Eaters of the Dead' by Michael Crichton

I started watching this film about half way through a long time ago when I was half asleep. It woke me up instantly. I was always fascinated by Norse mythology and all things Viking, so this was one hell of a film for me! First off, the film is based on a novel by Michael Crichton (yes, that Jurassic Park guy), so a lot of the credit goes to him. It is said to be a take on the Beowulf legend, but apart from the names and the appearance of a person known as 'Wendol's mother', it seems very different to me. It was ages before I decided to get it on DVD, but now it sits there very comfortably.

The acting is incredible. Antonio Banderas is excellent as the Arab poet-turned-warrior, but for me, the film was made by the appearance of Vladimir Kulich. He plays a great Norse warrior and his voice is what fits so well. Little bit of trivia - he also played the Beast in Angel.

The direction is also good. A fight scene inevitably features at the film's climax, it being a Norse adventure after all. The whole fight is shot in slo-mo and it works very well. While the fight is quite short, I think that the point was that you weren't sure exactly how long it lasted. It's more about the characters than what is happening.

Now the writing....I'm not sure how much of this is due to the book, but in a lot of these movies, the dialogue seems forced and weak. This is not the case in The 13th Warrior. There is a fair bit of fore-shadowing throughout, so if you have half a brain, you can tell who's going to survive.

All in all, a great movie, yet so few people have heard of it, never mind watched it! And I finish with a quote from the film, that sums up the whole Viking way of life:

"Lo there do I see my father. Lo there do I see my mother and my sisters and my brothers. Lo there do I see the line of my people, back to the beginning. Lo, they do call to me, they bid me take my place among them, in the Halls of Valhalla, where the brave may live...forever."

Written and directed by: Stephen Sommers

Stephen Sommers has a reputation for using fancy special effects at the expense of story. I really don't see where this comes from. Yes, his films feature a lot of special effects, but you can hardly say the story is lacking. This film is heaps better than the first - more action, more intense, more humour, more adventure!

Now, I'll be the first to admit that Brendan Fraser has taken on some pretty crappy roles in his time, but this is not one of them. He's a very capable actor given half-decent material, as this film shows. And the re-appearance of Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep is brilliant. I felt kind of cheated by his lack of action in the first movie, but here he gets to unleash it. After losing his powers, he spends a fair few minutes kicking the shite out of Fraser. And make no mistakes people; if the Scorpion King had not appeared, Imhotep would have finished the job.

If I had one problem with this movie, it would be the appearance of The Rock. He was clearly used because of his American appeal, but he almost ruins it. Not quite though, as he doesn't feature heavily.

The musical score is also one of my favourites. It works so well with the action and just adds to the adventure.

All in all, this is one of my favourite adventure movies. While the Mummy saga has always been in the shadows of Indiana Jones, this one beats the hell out of them all. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor on the other hand....don't ask. Surprisingly, the third installment received no input from Stephen Sommers and it lacked everything that made the first two great.

"My dad is going to kick your arse."

Installment 2 (End of Days & Dragon Tiger Gate)
Installment 3 (Seraphim Falls & Daredevil: Director's Cut)
Installment 4 (The Punisher & Hostage)

Stay shiny readers,

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