Thursday, August 21, 2008

10,000 BC (2008)

"A good man draws a circle around himself and cares for those within. His woman, his children. Other men draw a larger circle and bring within their brothers and sisters. But some men have a great destiny. They must draw around themselves a circle that includes many, many more. Your father was one of those men. You must decide for yourself whether you are, as well."
- Tic'Tic (Cliff Curtis) to D’Leh (Steven Strait)

At a glance: Despite the condemnation of most critics, and some problems with an excruciating opening segment and some distracting special effects scenes, 10,000 BC is at times a beautiful and appealing epic, with a solid story at its core.

Every once in a while, I have the desire to watch a really bad movie. I relish picking its faults apart and finding humor in the mistakes of judgement. So I reached for a film I was sure would be bad: 10,000 BC. It sported a rating of just 9% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. But I have to admit I was severely disappointed. Sure, the film is not totally successful by any means, but it was still entertaining and had a lot to offer. (It’s important to remember that the Tomatometer percent is not an overall rating of the movie by critics, but, rather, the percent of critics that gave the movie a favorable review. That may seem like semantics, but it means that 9 out of 100 critics actually thought the film was good).

10,000 BC starts with a long voiceover segment where the narrator, Omar Shariff, describes past mammoth hunts. As I sat there, unable to generate any interest in the film, I couldn’t help but think: what is this, a book on tape? No, it’s a film! And might it not be a teensy bit more exciting to SHOW us those past mammoth hunts, rather than talk about them? Eventually, the narration ends, the mammoths appear, the hunt is on, and the movie improves. The epic story is of a young warrior whose true love is abducted; he follows her across every conceivable terrain and climate on earth (often, some of these are within yards of each other). It’s at best an uneven film: the first mammoth hunt is an exciting relief from the long setup, but other action scenes seem to derail the momentum of the storytelling. Nonetheless, I had seen the consensus of reviews before viewing the film, most of which were negative, so I expected something terrible, and instead I was pleasantly surprised and entertained. Camilla Belle makes a fetching femme fatale, all made up to look like a young Liz Taylor. And Steven Strait does a commendable job as the hero. Anyone with a passing knowledge of ancient history may be appalled by the many anachronisms in the film (for example: sailing ships, paper, corn, and horseriding all had not happened yet at this time). Director Roland Emmerich ventured into somewhat similar (ancient Egypian pyramid civilization) territory in his 1994 film, Stargate. The breathtaking scenery and cinematography helps (filmed in New Zealand, South Africa, and Namibia) Rating: 2.5 of 4

"Roland Emmerich's prehistoric odyssey 10,000 BC is his silliest, most preposterous blockbuster to date. But it's lots of fun, too."
- Sukhdev Sandhu (Daily Telegraph)

"…strictly a popcorn flick version of Joseph Campell's hero's journey that looks great even as it plays fast and very loose with geography, biology, and anything else that gets in its way…"
- Andrea Chase (Killer Movie Reviews)

"It's just a wrong movie altogether, an elaborately nonsensical stew of crazy costumes, bizarre accessories, and funny voices."
- Eric D. Snider (

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