by Mel Valentin
Roland Emmerich’s ("The Day After Tomorrow," "Independence Day," "Stargate") latest magnum opus, "10,000 B.C.," is everything we’ve come to expect from Emmerich’s oeuvre as a filmmaker interested in mass market entertainment: big, loud, ridiculous, contrived and, for those of willing to admit it to ourselves, guilty pleasures of the highest order (or lowest, depending on your perspective). "10,000 B.C.," is just as clichéd, formulaic, and cheesy as Emmerich’s previous efforts. The dialogue ranges from the banal to the portentous (and the pretentious), but never attains the profundity Emmerich hoped to achieve. Anyone expecting more or anything different from Emmerich will be sadly disappointed. Anyone expecting less, far, far less, might just escape the movie theater with a sporadically entertaining, if ultimately forgettable, experience.Set in, when else, 10,000 B.C. or thereabouts, and presumably somewhere in Europe, 10,000 B.C. follows a tribe of swarthy, unhygienic, dreadlock-sporting hunters (with good teeth, no less) face the end of their way of life with the near-extinction of the mammoths they hunt. The village mystic and prophetess, the Old Mother (Mona Hammond), predicts one last hunt and with the last hunt, a new leader will be selected. The de facto leader of the tribe, Tic'Tic (Cliff Curtis), leads the hunters, young and old, to take down a mammoth bull. Whoever kills the bull wins Tic'Tic’s bone spear, the symbol of leadership. A young hunter, D’Leh (Steven Strait), kills the bull, but under questionable circumstances. He wants to win the spear not to become the new leader of the tribe, but to “win” the woman he loves, Evolet (Camilla Belle), from a rival hunter, Ka'Ren (Mo Zinal).
"Mr. Emmerich, we expected so little and you gave us even less."
Almost immediately, men on four-legged demons (i.e., horses) attack the village, taking men, women, and children as slaves. D’Leh manages to escape capture, as do Tic'Tic, Ka’Ren, and a young boy, Baku (Nathanael Baring). D’Leh swears to free Evolet and his people, but finding Evolet and the others involves an arduous, days-long trek through the mountains, a dense jungle below the snowline, an unforgiving desert, and finally, the river (presumably the Nile) and the massive construction project where Evolet and the others have been taken. Along the way, D’Leh and his companions must face obstacles, natural and animal, including a saber-toothed tiger and giant, ostrich-like carnivores, acquires African allies led by Nakudu (Joel Virgel), and, like any classic hero out of a myth, overcome personal doubts before becoming a “true” leader.
Like Emmerich’s previous attempts at epic-styled filmmaking, 10,000 B.C. relies heavily on state-of-the-art visual effects to keep moviegoers glued to their vinyl, leather or cloth seats with wonder and awe in their eyes. If online reports are to be trusted, 10,000 B.C. wasn’t ready for a fall release, so Warner Brothers wisely decided to push back the release date from the fall into the spring while Emmerich and his team completed or upgraded the visual effects. At least there, Emmerich doesn’t slip up. Almost every shot in 10,000 B.C. is crammed with computer animation, most of it solidly executed, but some scenes still looked rough and unpolished. The CG mammoths and saber-toothed tiger looked almost photorealistic in some shots, and far from that in others. The pyramid builders’ red-sailed ships and the half-built pyramids we see late in the film are probably the most impressive effects shots in the entire film.
10,000 B.C.’s pre-historic setting allowed Emmerich to combine his fascination with Neolithic society with a highly fictionalized ancient civilization. By his own admission via interviews and his recent WonderCon appearance in San Francisco, Emmerich borrowed heavily from Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods, a pseudo-scientific treatise that posits an ancient, unknown civilization as a source for the Aztec, Mayan, Olmec, and Egyptian civilizations. Emmerich’s other influences range from Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian) epic-style fantasy, Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Quest for Fire, his earlier science fiction/fantasy epic, Stargate (itself highly derivative), and, in at least one action sequence, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel, The Lost World.Unfortunately, visual effects and far-out ideas aren’t enough to overcome a film overflowing with banal dialogue spoken in an unconvincing accent (supposedly a mix of Standard English and Arabic), a bland love story that borrows from "Apocalypto" and "Last of the Mohicans," a dully self-doubting hero unwilling to “heed the call” and become a leader in the "Braveheart" mold, not one, but two plot-propelling prophecies short on logic, a thumbs-down worthy supernatural turn, and one too many unanswered questions about the pyramid builders and where they came from. And that’s not even taking into account Emmerich’s unsavory depiction of the villains as either of Arabic or Indian (as in the subcontinent) ethnicity. To give Emmerich some credit (where none, really, is due), at least the hero and his tribe aren’t Caucasian (they’re an unlikely mix of Polynesian, Asian, light-skinned African-Caucasian mix, and maybe Native American).
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=16808&reviewer=402
originally posted: 03/07/08 16:00:00