One of the oldest genres in the history of film is prehistoric man. Let’s face it, in the old days of movies they were fairly cheap to make. You just take a few animal skins and wrap them around the actors with a few fury bikinis for the ladies in the cast and get a few shots of a large cat like a lion or tiger and you were set. All you needed for a location shot is a cave and some brush land and the film was practically in the can. It has been awhile since Hollywood has revisited this type of film, but now they have with ’10,000 BC’. The films of the forties that dealt with this were great old fashion pop corn flicks and the best this incarnation can hope for is pretty much the same. ’10,000 BC’ is mostly style without substance. Now there is a place for such films. Not every movie has to have a strong story with subtext and meaning. Sometimes a story is just a tall tale related for the fun of it. This is more like the flicks we use to watch as kids in the local movie house’s Saturday afternoon matinee. The best way to watch this movie is to try to recreate those days. Have some friends over, make a huge bowl of popcorn and get some Red Vines, Good ‘n Plenty and a few sodas and sit back and enjoy. Feel free to shout at the screen. Believe me, you won’t miss any vital dialogue, there really isn’t any to be found here.
Okay, I have to admit there is a story line here it is just that it isn’t that well crafted and certainly not necessary to enjoy the film. The script was written by Roland Emmerich who also directed and his partner Harald Kloser. Kloser has spent most of his time writing music for films and television. This is his first time utilizing words instead of notes. Emmerich has become a name in Hollywood lately with screenplays and direction for blockbuster special effects laden flicks like ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Stargate’. He knows how to craft a flick that audiences will enjoy. In this script they hit all the high points for an action flick. There is the young man who must prove his manhood to his people. There is the young woman, an orphan, who requires rescue from another tribal group. Add to this some prophecy to set things up and you have the proper scaffold for the action. The first act of the screenplay deals with the set up. The main characters are introduced as children and then the jump is made to the more attractive twenty-something versions. Then there is the second act; the quest. The third act is the weakest with a faint glimmer of resolution but by then you have seen what you came for, the special effects. Like other scripts that Emmerich has done it doesn’t stick too what is believed to be historically or scientifically accurate. Just look at the ‘Day After Tomorrow’, it cashed in on the ecological disaster scenarios but played with realistic time lines for the sake of action. Here this is how Hollywood and the audience want to see primitive man; hunting huge beasts, tribal fighting and muscle baring outfits. In this film they throw together ethic and social groups that evidence indicates never were anywhere in proximity to one another. At least they left out the dinosaurs that the flicks of this type used decades ago. If you want facts please do not look to this flick; watch the History Channel or better yet read a book. Just a warning to college students taking an anthropology course; do not write a paper using this movie as a source; you will have to repeat the course.
Emmerich does better here as director than writer. For the most part the pacing of the film works very well. The three acts flow into each other with expertise and even a touch of flair. He knows how to frame a shot and set up a camera to capture the intensity of a scene and pull the audience into the action. Some of the shots are very imaginative in they way they were done which did a lot to let you suspend belief and enjoy the flick. To say that as the director he lost the narrative of the flick would be unfair. There has to be a narrative in the first place. Emmerich tries to make up for this with a roller coaster ride of a movie liberally spiced with computer generated special effects. What is lost here is the humanity of the characters. In previous films like ‘ID4’ he was able to carry the time between the action shots with characters that where interesting to watch and that the audience was able to identify with. Here the basic human drives and motivations are there; proving yourself, young love etc, but the heart is not in it.
The film centers on a tribe of hunter-gathers called the Yaghal. Their prey of choice is the mammoth which is big enough to provide food and skins for the tribe. Young D’Leh (Jacob Renton) lives in the shadow of his father, a great hunter. One day a little girl, Evolet (Grayson Hunt Urwin) comes into the tribe. Her people were all captured by four legged demons; slave traders on horse back. The years pass and D’Leh (Steven Strait) is physically a man but he has yet to prove himself as a hunter. He has a budding love for Evolet (Camilla Belle), captivated by her strange blue eyes. D’Leh manages too win the acceptance of his tribe as a hunter and the coveted white spear when he accidentally is tethered to mammoth who dies. He is not about to ruin things for himself by telling the elders the truth of the matter. There is a prophecy made by Old Mother (Mona Hammond) that the four legged demons will come to their tribe and steal away their young people. Soon it comes true and Evolet is among the captives. D’Leh decides to follow the horsemen on foot and save his fair maiden. Coming along with him is his mentor, Tic Tic (Cliff Curtis) and a boy wanting to prove himself, Baku (Nathanael Baring). Years ago D’Leh’s father disappeared mysteriously and Tic Tic took him in to teach him to be hunter. At this point as the second act begins it seems that Emmerich tries to put in as many types of scenery as possible. There are mountains of ice and snow, white water to the locals that lead into a lush overgrown jungle. They eventually come across a tribe, the Naku, a dark skinned people. Since D’Leh is the answer to their own prophecy they decide to help him in his quest and they then travel into a desert. It has to be Egypt since we see the locals there building the pyramid (a few thousand years ahead of schedule) using mammoths as beasts of burden. Along the way are some strange blood hungry birds and a saber tooth tiger just for kicks.
The film is released to DVD by Warner Brothers. The disc is great with both an anamorphic 2.40:1 widescreen and a Pan & Scan version. The Dolby 5.1 is excellent and will transform your living room into a primitive world. This is not the best that Emmerich has to offer but it is passable for a rainy Saturday afternoon.