Saturday, March 15, 2008

Review: 10,000 B.C.

A really stupid caveman movie

(Spoilers ahead!)

I'm fine with movies that have silly premises. Movies like Blade, Underworld and Resident Evil offer a hodgepodge of scientific and supernatural themes that border on unintentional parody. But the stories are often excuses for stringing a few fun action or special effects sequences together, and for the aforementioned movies, the action is almost always the best thing about them. The preposterous story of a vengeful black half-vampire goes down much easier if you're having too much fun watching Blade eliminate vampires with his silver samurai sword. Roland Emmerich's 10,000 B.C. is just as ludicrous, probably more so, but unfortunately it failed to impress in every aspect that mattered.

Thus, It goes without saying that 10,000 B.C.'s weakest attribute is its storyline. It's a shameless rip-off of Apocalypto's first half and Stargate's second, also an Emmerich movie. Circa 10,000 B.C., a group of horsemen pillaged a tribe of mammoth hunters, and captured some of its people, including blue-eyed prophecy child Evolet (Camilla Belle). Her boyfriend with the rapper-sounding name D'Leh (Steven Strait) immediately embarks on a rescue mission, together with mentor Tic'Tic (Cliff Curtis, who's in everything these days), rival hunter Ka'Ren (Mo Zinal) and recently-orphaned Baku (Nathanael Baring). They travel beyond the mountains of their icy plains to discover Africa, and then, within walking distances, Egypt. There, he finds his people being forced to work on building pyramids for a mysterious, god-like figure. D'Leh may lack modern weaponry and Kurt Russell, but luckily the Egyptian slave masters don't shoot plasma bolts from their staffs. He manages to round up an army of African natives to help him, because, conveniently, he also happens to be the Chosen One. He proves this by making friends with a sabretooth in one of the most intellectually insulting sequences ever. But it can't beat the one where a witch doctor revived a dead person by exhaling a misty puff of breath from hundreds of miles away. Meanwhile, D'Leh's hot girlfriend gets thrown into the company of thousands of deprived and depraved primeval men without causing much incident, a la Rambo 4 and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Faring badly too are the action sequences, which managed to take the best from Jurassic Park, Stargate, and 300, and actually made them worse. For example, it cribbed 300's spear-throwing finale, but lacking 300's editing sensibilities, 10,000 B.C.'s scene just plainly unfolds without ever bothering to build any semblance of suspense. Next thing you know, the villain's dead, and... that's it? The one action scene that we don't often see elsewhere is the mammoth hunt, which should have been the movie's highlight. But the ferocity of these ancient creatures barely even registers, which made the hunt no more exciting than if they were hunting regular-sized elephants. Although I like action, I'm not a gore lover, but this is one instance where a movie might have benefitted from some blood-letting.

Not helping Warner Bros' cause for a hundred million dollars is its hundred-dollar computer effects and production values. It has been three years since Chronicles of Narnia's fake-looking lion, but it seems like the development of computer generated felines never progressed. The mammoths were better animated, but looked like they lacked definition and seemed blurry at times. The man-eating birds are the only ones that get a passing grade, but it's probably because they whisked across the screen too fast for closer scrutiny. The set (or was it all blue-screen?), character and costume designs are a notch higher than Xena: Warrior Princess', but they are still as unauthentic, unless you believe dental care and sailboats had already been invented before the mammoths were extinct.

Probably the only way to stomach 10,000 B.C. is to think of it as one of those cheesy Eighties Conan The Barbarian-type of movies. But Apocalypto is clearly the better ancient-civilisation-action-movie. 10,000 B.C. is as pointless as the rave scene from The Matrix Reloaded. - BMF


For the record:

Emmerich movies: Stargate > Independence Day > The Day After Tomorrow > The Patriot > Universal Soldier > Godzilla > 10,000 B.C.

Directed by Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow, The Patriot) and screenplay by Emmerich and Harold Kloser (debut). Stars Steven Strait, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis, Affif Ben Brada, Mo Zinal, Nathanael Baring, Mona Hammond, Marco Khan and Omar Sharif as The Narrator.

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