You'd think that with mammoths, saber-tooth tigers, and large, screeching birds you wouldn't need much more to deliver an entertaining romp through yester-epoch, but 10,000 B.C. proves that merely having an exotic setting as your premise won't get you over a mundane plot and more mundane characters.
The film begins with a blue-eyed girl coming to live with a clan of "manuk" (that's "mammoth" to you and me) hunters after her tribe is wiped out by what appear to be the bad guys from Conan the Barbarian. The tribe elder (Mona Hammond) declares that this girl is part of some prophecy while the son of the tribe's #1 hunter looks on. Article continues below
That little boy grows up to be D'Leh (Steven Strait
), but not before his dad runs off for no apparent reason, leaving his son an outcast. The little girl grows up to be Evolet (Camilla Belle
), on whom D'Leh has a pretty serious crush, but, tribes being what they are, he must take down a woolly manuk in order to win her. Seriously.
D'Leh actually accomplishes this goal, albeit accidentally, but no sooner is he confessing the truth about his ill-gotten laurels than the marauders from Evolet's past come along and ruin it all by kidnapping just about everyone in the tribe, including Evolet. The rest of the movie is D'Leh, with some help from the current #1 hunter Tic'Tic (Cliff Curtis
) and others, trying to track down and retrieve his beloved.
All of the ingredients are here for a solid, if routine, action epic, and, to be fair, the film does an adequate job of delivering said epic before getting increasingly silly towards the end. But that's the problem. When you have multimillion dollar special effects and the potential to watch man vs. prehistoric beast, "adequate" doesn't cut it. But that's all you get: adequate action sequences and adequate special effects. The Skull Island sequence from Peter Jackson's King Kong alone blows this movie out of the water, and it doesn't take almost two hours to slog through. (Too bad about the rest of the movie, eh? - Ed.)
And for an "exotic" setting, 10,000 B.C. isn't all that exotic. A desert is still a desert, a jungle is still a jungle, and snow is still snow (even if you call it "white rain"). Nothing in this film really makes you feel like you're transported back in time. If anything, the attempt to fuse ancient Egyptian lore, tribal warfare, and mammoths towards the end of the film is more confusing than engaging.
Which brings us to the silliness. At some point in the film, D'Leh and his wandering band discover a black African tribe. They, in turn, lead him to other tribes, which seem to cover everything from pygmies to Native Americans. They believe because of some prophecy (everybody in this movie has a prophecy) that he's the one they've been waiting for to lead them to victory.
Frankly, it's a little depressing to think that even in a film set 12,000 years ago, the highly-trained dark-skinned warrior characters need to wait for a rookie light-skinned character to come along before they can do anything to help themselves. Secondly, the United Tribes of Benetton shtick feels forced and, for a film that's already left plausibility in the fridge way past the expiration date, totally impossible even if they were living on Pangaea.
Ultimately, though, the film's cardinal sin is to be boring. The far more inane Scorpion King at least has a pulse. And director Roland Emmerich
's previous efforts such as Independence Day or Stargate were occasionally able to muster something resembling intensity. But for all its attempted grandeur, 10,000 B.C. is about as slow and lumbering as a wounded manuk.