Sunday, September 19, 2010

Prehistoric Fantasy At Its Worst

10,000 B.C. (2008)

Let me ask you a question – have you seen The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Patriot, Braveheart, and Hanna Barbera’s Dino Boy (scroll to 26 seconds if you want your eyes to melt)? If so, there’s pretty much no reason to waste your time with director Roland Emmerich’s latest empty-headed blockbuster, 10,000 B.C.

Emmerich is a master of visual effects (Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow), but still a padawan learner as far as story and characters. Here he and co-writer Harald Kloser crib from so many obvious sources that a new Drinking Game should be made for this movie: you take a shot whenever you yell out whichever movie he is ripping off. At 35 minutes into this dreck, you’d need to call an ambulance to take you to a hospital to pump your stomach.

To begin, there is a bone-headed narration provided by Omar Shariff, that simply states EVERYTHING that is going on onscreen. Did Emmerich think this overly-lifted plot too complicated for his regular viewers?

The story follows a group of Stone Age mammoth hunters, centering on D’Leh (Steven Strait), whose father, a great hunter and leader, up and left one day and never returned. They should have known something was amiss when he said he was just going for “a pack of cave-smokes.” D’Leh has the hots for a blue-eyed girl, Evolet (Camilla Belle) who is the last survivor of her tribe and comes into the care of his people. The resident old lady shaman declares her to be the wife of whoever becomes the tribe’s new hunter/leader.

Evolet is captured by a tribe of horsemen from what appears to be hundreds of thousands of years of evolution ahead of the fur-wearing mammoth hunters. There must be a wormhole loose in the mountains as the story opens in the Stone Age, but then these goofballs – with obviously modulated voices that make them sound exactly like the dudes in Star Gate – ride in to the movie and they have clothing and metalwork which is from a much later period in history. Of course, to confuse things, the movie throws in a mention of Atlantis and even aliens, and ends in Ancient Egypt, pyramids and everything, so all of Emmerich’s favorite “motifs” are here (not only does he rip off other movies, but his own as well).

There is not one interesting or memorable lead character in this story. D’Leh could have been played by any hunky male actor from any show on The CW network. Camilla Belle is certainly no Raquel Welch. With such a fantasy setting shouldn’t you cast actors who pop off the screen and have personality? The heads of the tribes who band with D’Leh are much more interesting, but they are only minor characters.

Admittedly there is some beautiful scenery on display here, with amazing craggy mountain regions shot in New Zealand, Zambia and South Africa, but after The Lord of the Rings trilogy, all those aerial shots of our questing heroes running across said ranges – and there’s a lot - just brings to mind that better set of films. Many of the CGI creatures – especially the sabertooth tiger and the “terror birds” (raptors crossed with ostriches) – look extremely fake.

All the posters feature D'Leh staring down a sabertooth tiger. Here's an idea: since all this is just a bunch of comic book-flavored hooey, why not have the tiger "bond" with D'Leh (a la Marvel Comics Ka-Zar and his prehistoric tiger Zabu) after he saves its furry butt from a lethal trap and have ol' saber-face join D'Leh in his battle to save the girl and bring down the bad guy. It would have made the final battles much more fun.

There is also too much mumbo jumbo at work too. It’s one thing to have a cliched prophesy to fulfill in a story but to just introduce magical elements because you don’t know what else to do is just lame (I’m talking about the ending in particular). For a much more fun time overall, rent One Million Years B.C., a time when Raquel Welch knew how to fill out a fur bikini (and Ray Harryhausen knew how to put amazing and thrilling dinosaur special effects action on the screen).

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