If nothing else, Roland Emmerich’s 10,000 B.C., a would-be adventure epic that is mostly dull as grey paint, made me feel something new. Half an hour in, I fantasized that it might be a much better movie if Tarsem had directed. Never thought it would come to that. And by the time the movie got around to a final act filled with early Egyptian architecture and mammoth stampedes, even mentally reconfiguring it according to Tarsem’s style barely kept me awake.
In this pasted-together plot blue-eyed Evolet (Camilla Belle) is brought to a cold mountain village after her people are killed by ‘four legged demons’. Young hunter D’leh (Steven Strait) falls for the girl and eventually vies for her hand during a mastodon hunt, and do you have any idea how ridiculous I feel just typing this?
Suffice to say, the ‘four-legged demons’ are just blokes on horseback who eventually attack D’leh’s village and kidnap Evolet and most of the young menfolk. D’leh and mentor Tic’Tic (Cliff Curtis) tramp along after them. They eventually gather a force of warriors, fulfill some prophecies and swede scenes from 300, Jurassic Park and Aesop’s Fables.
In addition to the character named Tic’Tic there’s a host of African tribesmen, but Roland Emmerich is so worldly that he only makes them look primitive and stupid for a couple minutes. For a laugh. Except for the tribe wearing masks that might have been cut out of a bamboo fence from Home Depot. They look stupid all the time.
There’s one point where the movie makes a switch from deadened tedium to nearly inspired idiocy. D’leh and Tic’Tic track the horsemen to a place where snowy mountains give way to dense jungle literally within a span of fifty feet. Funny enough, but a few moments later is when the killer ostriches attack.
You read that right.
Really, these animals are just velociraptors with bird feathers pasted on. Like all the other CGI in the film, Ueli Steiger keeps them moving in front of his camera as fast as possible. (Steiger and Emmerich fall back on two dance moves with the camera: fast-moving close-ups and the Lord of the Rings helicopter sweep.) But at this point if you expect anything unique or advanced from Emmerich you’re far too idealistic. Anyone unlucky enough to still be watching the film at this point will get a dense few chuckles out of the seriously silly fight scene that ensues, but the laughter dies off fast.
After the movie ended I stared at my notepad for about 90 minutes (enabled by plenty of beer) trying to figure out what the hell I could say about this beast. I can’t remember being this flabbergasted by a film in a long time; the simple fact that 10,000 B.C. exists sets my head spinning. I dare not even think about the bidding war for 2012, Emmerich’s next movie / cocktail napkin scribble.
Worse, I feel like all of my words might only dignify the movie. A boring review will waste your time, but a lively one could have exactly the wrong effect by suggesting that the film is bad enough to be entertaining, which it manages for about four minutes of ostrich attack. There’s no winning here, and not even any point in contextualizing Emmerich’s effort within the moribund and typically worthless prehistoric genre.
Amid the mess, Cliff Curtis manages to be as dignified as possible, which means that in quite a few scenes his embarrassment is barely veiled. And he’ll probably pull in a small audience, though it’ll mostly be people who mistake him for Naveen Andrews. Strait and Belle make for attractive leads (OK, Belle is gorgeous in a way that overshadows even Monica Bellucci) but that won’t get you through their trek across a desert.
I haven’t even got to the movie’s dumbest points, like the scene where we see D’leh learn to improvise spearmaking or when he advances mankind’s development by navigating by the North Star for the first time in history. If we got to see him invent the flush toilet I might have been interested.
Finally, Emmerich builds a massive Egyptian pyramid construction set (not half as impressive as Apocalypto‘s) with perhaps the sole purpose of giving closure to fans of 300 when a thrown spear hit its god-like target. That’s all you really need to know about this movie: it’s a two-hour piece of 300 fan fiction that doesn’t even have the generosity to provide the blowjobs and reacharounds that movie’s militant audience really needed.