If Mel Gibson remade Apocalypto and cast it with the Geico cavemen, he might end up with something akin to 10,000 B.C.. This absurd adventure is the third movie Iíve seen this year that partially takes place at the Egyptian pyramids and the Sphinx. Jumper and The Bucket List were the other two. I am reminded of a show biz in-joke from the 90ís, when the Disney division known as Hollywood Pictures used the Sphinx as a logo on all its releases: ďIf itís the Sphinx, it stinks.Ē Thatís kind of how Iím feeling right now. Does the movie industry have something against Egypt, or is it pure coincidence that three recent bad movies have all utilized its most famous landmarks?
This is the story of DíLeh (Steven Strait), a young hunter who has been branded a coward by his tribe. (If you guessed right there that the ďcowardĒ would eventually go on to prove his immense bravery to everyone else, youíve earned a big gold star.) DíLeh is in love with a beautiful young tribeswoman named Evolet (Camilla Belle). A wizened old mystic woman tells of a prophecy about a brave hunter rescuing the tribe and winning the heart of a fair maiden. When a rival tribe kidnaps Evolet, DíLeh has the chance to prove the prophecy true. He follows his enemies across great distances, facing a (small) variety of prehistoric beasts in the process. His pursuit leads him to the middle of the desert, where the rival tribe is forcing slaves to build gigantic pyramids. The mystic woman has a few prophecies about this as well. DíLeh recruits others to fight along side him, to defeat the rivals and rescue Evolet.
There are lots of things I could knock about 10,000 B.C.: the bad acting, the cardboard characters, the flat story, its endless reliance on clichťs, etc. All that stuff is there, but you know what my real gripe with the picture is? It simply doesnít deliver what I think any reasonable moviegoer would expect. The trailer and TV ads emphasized action and special effects, so itís perfectly reasonable to walk in expecting to see at least a halfway-decent action movie. Unfortunately, what you see in the trailer is pretty much all 10,000 B.C. gives you. I disliked this movie because it bored me out of my mind. After a rousing woolly mammoth stampede, the film becomes surprisingly talky. Yes, a saber tooth tiger makes a brief appearance but it eats no one before quickly hurrying off again.
Am I alone in this? Give me a movie called 10,000 B.C. that has cutting edge special effects and a filmmaker (Roland Emmerich) known for making some modern adventure classics and Iím going to expect to have fun. I donít care if the plot is a little familiar, or if the acting is a tad wooden. I want to see woolly mammoths stepping on cavemen. I want to see saber-toothed tigers eating people. I want to be on the edge of my seat for two hours. What I distinctly donít want is to listen to a lot of mumbo-jumbo about mythic prophesies and battle strategies and alliances. If those balance out the action, thatís fine and dandy. If they replace the action, youíve lost me.
I looked at my watch a lot during this film. By the end, when DíLeh and his cohorts launch their attack at the construction site of the pyramids and Sphinx, I was expecting a big finish. Even here, 10,000 B.C. wimps out. Movies like this are supposed to end with a big bang, not a whimper. The so-called ďclimaxĒ has a couple extra mammoths running around, plus some stock swordplay Ė and more talking! Yes, the CGI imagery is incredible (look at all those slaves building the pyramids!), but how exciting is that when there is nothing compelling taking place around it?
It is hard to believe that the director is Roland Emmerich, who knows a thing or two about delivering cinematic excitement. From Stargate to Independence Day to The Day After Tomorrow, he has thrilled audiences with well-made mainstream blockbusters. Now, Emmerich finally has something on his resume thatís even worse than his misguided 1997 Godzilla remake.
A movie like 10,000 B.C. is never going to be great art, but it could Ė and should Ė have been great fun. Iíd have happily overlooked all the other flaws if only the movie had possessed some genuine entertainment value. That it lacks this basic level of fun is, more than anything, what disappoints me the most. Who knew they had such giant turkeys in prehistoric times?
( 1/2 out of four)
The Blu-Ray will contain these features as well as "A Wild and Wooly Ride," which is a 13-minute look at the process used to recreate the time period of the film, with emphasis on the animals and pyramids. Also included on the Blu-Ray disc is "Inspring an Epic," a 13-minute look at the history of 10,000 B.C. and how it inspired the film.
10,000 B.C. is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence. The running time is 1 hour and 49 minutes.
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