By Marco Chacon
Mar 19, 2008 10:54 AM EST

10,000 B.C. Theatrical Review

10,000 B.C. Theatrical Review
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Roland Emmerich knows how to make a big film, I'll give him that. 10,000 clocks in at almost 1.3 million dollars per minute for its entire 109 minutes (this isn't absurd: Comparatively Pirates of the Caribbean 3 was 1.7). He gets his money's worth. On the screen, the stone age never looked so good.

The story is simple: a tribe in the upper mountains hunt the noble tusked-snuffleupagus which comes in great CGI herds across the valley. One day "Old Mother" (a mud-covered Mona Hammond) has a vision that 4-legged demons (guys on horseback) will come and steal their warriors and some women! D'Leh (Steven Strait--Emmerich wanted to cast relative unknowns) is in love with neolithic hottie Evolet (Camilla Belle) and when she gets snatched he leads a small group on what Joseph Campell's called "the hero's journey"--basically about an hour and a half of chasing her down across the whole freaking world.

What he finds is Evil Egyptians (Arabs were bad way back then?) who might or might not be from Atlantis (they do, alas, lack the Star Gate) and he leads a rebellion. To say that the story is basic, moderately cliched, and littered with racial stereotypes does not begin to describe it. There is swelling-music-cues for the important speeches. There is friends-with-animal scenes (with thunder and lightning). There are noble black warrior desert tribesmen (who need 1 white guy to lead them? Seems so ...). And so on. There's lots of prophecies. There are signs from the heavens.

This could've been made in the 60's if not for the CGI special effects (interestingly, to cut rendering time, the director asked the CG shop to cut "half the hair" and decided the animals all looked the same anyway--they do, indeed, for the most part, look pretty good). The intense lack of any kind of historical accuracy (from the building structures to the crop seeds characters are given) is pretty blistering--but if you didn't know that going in, well, there's really no excuse.

The film, despite being 're-tread Hollywood crap' and having some unsavory stereotypical overtones (the one-white-guy leader is the only guy to discover astro-navigation in the desert?) is moderately good spirited and, if you're in the mood, it could be even fun if you forgive some draggy bits.

This is primarily because it is visually striking. The money-shots are worth every penny paid. Movies are getting better at showing us realistic aerial views of teeming ancient cities. They're good at showing us monsters that get more and more convincing with every year (I'm not sure what happened to I Am Legend). The decision to cast unknowns instead of name-brand actors may have actually helped here. Given the material, I suppose they do as reasonable a job as anyone could. The badguys with their gold jewelry and purple robes and so on are actually fantastic looking. The movie creates a wonderful sense of menace and majesty with visuals alone.

So thanks to its looks, like a frat-boy* choosing a date, I shall not gig 10,000 BC for being overly filled with what, today, we'd call "The Stupid." I do, however, have some problems with what I think are a few key narrative missteps. The biggest one is that twice in the film a bad-guy who's down--but is not properly served with the coup de grâce, comes back to kill a major character. I have a corollary issue with someone being Hollywood-saved who, narratively probably shouldn't have been. I have a problem with slow-mo scenes of lovers running to each other's arms with cue-music that something will happen.

I think that it's unfortunate that Emmerich's vision seems to be to make the perfectly stereotypical Hollywood blockbuster instead of making a hot-looking expensive movie that could become a blockbuster. 10,000 BC views like corporate-engineered boy-bands sound: it seems like an effort in audience manipulation. Oh it's done well enough but the craftsmanship isn't any more than skin deep.
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MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 109 minutes
Distributed By: Warner Bros.

For more information about 10,000 B.C. visit the FlickDirect Movie Database.

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