Review: 10,000 BC

Set...well, look at the title. Steven Strait is the son of a supposed coward who left him as a boy. In order to prove his worth both to his people (led by Kiwi actor Cliff Curtis) and the girl (Camilla Belle) he’s secretly been romancing, he single-handedly hunts and kills a woolly mammoth. Unfortunately, just as it looks like things are going to go well for him, a seemingly advanced civilisation spoils things by arriving on horseback and rounding everybody up to use as slaves in building their pyramids.

Kind of like “Quest for Fire” by one of the “ID4” guys, this 2008 film from director Roland Emmerich (“ID4”, “Godzilla”, “Universal Soldier”, “Stargate”, “The Day After Tomorrow”) is pretty poor stuff, as the above comparison suggests. Did people in 10,000 BC speak English? Probably not, but please, tell me what language they did speak? Yeah, I thought so, now sit down and shut the hell up because this film has plenty enough real flaws that one doesn’t need to nit-pick its choice of language.

On the one hand, it’s an attractive film with fine cinematography by Ueli Steiger (“The Hot Spot”, Emmerich’s disappointing “Godzilla”), and some really good CGI creatures, notably woolly mammoths and a sabre-tooth tiger that must’ve been really hard to design in 2008 (given the involvement of rain, water, and darkness in the scenes). It’s also one-dimensional (I’m not sure if prehistoric characters can be interestingly drawn, but they certainly aren’t here), dopey, and frankly rather boring. I mean, did they really build such ships in 10,000 BC as they do here in the film? And why in the hell are the Egyptian pyramids featured in a story set well before they were said to have been built? (Answer: Emmerich likes Egyptology, so everyone else can just go suck it, I guess). Also, the characters, one-note as they may be, look way too far in the evolutionary scale for my mind, especially the villains. Not just an advanced civilisation, but actually seemingly from a different time period.

In the right hands (Steven Spielberg, for instance, who would’ve ordered a re-write or two), this might’ve been something, it might’ve been a fun little prehistoric adventure (Then again, I never liked Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park”). My advice would’ve been to make it as a dialogue-free film. As is, it’s nothing much to speak of. In fact, it’s almost as if Emmerich focused all of his attention on the creature attack scenes and let the second unit dude do the rest, forcing him/her to make it all up on the spot. Terrible, worthless narration by a passionless Omar Sharif doesn’t help at all. How could such a legendary charismatic star deliver such a banal voice-over? Meanwhile, in a cast full of unimpressive performances, Belle looks positively bewildered, as if she spent the entire shoot searching for her ‘motivation’.

I wish this film didn’t suck, but terrific 2008-era CGI or not, it’s pretty forgettable. Maybe it doesn’t suck, it’s just below average. I do think, though, that if you combined the best parts of this film with the best parts of “300”, you’d have a pretty fun film. Screenplay by Emmerich and Harald Kloser, who both went on to make the prophetically-inclined apocalyptic disaster “2012”, which wasn’t any better.

Rating: C


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