by Gary Sundt
As Printed in The Lumberjack on March 12, 2008
Note from the author: I know it seems that every movie I’ve reviewed recently has recieved a negative spin. Understand, dear reader, this is simply the nature of January thru March movie-going. Most of it is going to be bad, because the studios have to unload their trash somewhere. With that in mind, the 10,000 BC rant:
Hate is such a strong word. Some people throw this word around, saying “I hate that person,” when they really don’t, or “I hate Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which is a complete impossibility. I am not one to use the word “hate” loosely. I mention this because I hated 10,000 BC. I mean really hated it.
This is the latest film from director Roland Emmerich, the mind behind the good Independence Day and the less-good The Day After Tomorrow. The trailer for 10,000 BC curiously left 1998’s Godzilla off his list of credentials, which I can understand. Godzilla was universally despised, and it is best to pretend things like that never happened. However, I didn’t hate Godzilla. The movie was stupid, but had charm I could admire. A really stupid charm.
10,000 BC doesn’t have any charm. It’s just stupid. Charmless stupidity.
The film begins with narration from an individual we never meet (Omar Sharif). He explains that D’Leh (Steven Strait), our hero, loves Evolet (Camilla Belle), a gorgeous, blue-eyed, mascara-wearing chick with really straight teeth. Where do you find mascara 10,000 years before recorded history? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s…crap.
Anyway, our hero can only be with his true love if he kills a woolly mammoth. Well, he does, and feels weird about it, so he decides they can’t be together. Evolet is heart-broken, but not for long, as some slave traders (referred to as four-legged demons) invade their little village and kidnap her. So, with the help of Tic’Tic (Cliff Curtis) and others, D’Leh quests Lord of the Rings-style to get back his beloved Evolet.
On this week-long journey, D’Leh and Co. come across more woolly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, velociraptor-ostriches, snowy mountains, jungle, desert, grasslands, the Sahara and pyramids… what? I mean, seriously, WTF?
This stuff couldn’t have happened 12,008 years ago, or during any period of time for that matter. Mammoths went extinct during the Ice Age. Saber-toothed cat versus people is plausible, but I don’t even know what the weird über-ostriches are, so no comment there.And what’s with the leisurely stroll from one distinct terrain to another? On what continent do these guys live where the deep jungle is within walking distance from the snowy mountains? And pyramids? The first stone structures at Jericho did not happen until 1,000 years after this point in history. Again, I pose the qustion: WTF?
Perhaps I’m getting too hung-up on logic here. This is supposed just be a fun popcorn movie, and I get that. Emmeric has stated publicly that this flick was never supposed to be a history lesson. But my gripes with 10,000 BC don’t end with anthropology.
This movie fails on a cinematic level as well, so much so that it insults the audience. The script presumes people don’t want logic or character development. It assumes we know little or nothing about history, and have never seen a well-made film. This flick thinks we’re 6 years old.
Because most of the audience is not in first grade, the obvious problems hit all the harder. The actors are mostly unknowns, and their performances are clear indications why. Furthermore, they spend the running time subjecting us to some of the worst dialogue ever in an Emmerich film. And that’s saying something.
Worst of all is the cinematography, which is an earth-shattering disaster. The camera work is dizzying, and not in a good way. We can’t see what’s happening half the time.
My other issue with the picture is either an issue of lighting or the print (the individual copy) I was watching. During the movies’ night sequences, the film quality had a tendency to turn noticeably grainy. 10,000 BC cost an estimated $75 million to make, and either the lighting is bad or the print’s quality is shoddy. Whatever the case, I wonder: Where did the money go? Mascara? I’m going with mascara.
Some of that mascara cash was definitely thrown in the direction of the CGI monsters. They aren’t bad, but when put next to the pain-staking detail Peter Jackson’s crew put into 2005’s King Kong, these creations, much like everything else here, just seem silly. Not as silly as Tic’Tic and pyramids, but they are silly enough.
Here’s a thought: maybe it’s supposed be silly (I’m grasping here, okay). Perhaps Emmerich wanted us to laugh. If this was his aim, he succeeded, because I laughed a lot. I laughed when Evolet’s mascara smeared, and when D’Leh nursed inner turmoil over killing the mammoth he was supposed to kill. But when the credits rolled, I didn’t think it was very funny anymore. In fact, the more I thought about it, the angrier I became.
So, as I mentioned before, I hated 10,000 BC. I hated every stupid frame of it. Every performance, every line of dialogue, every stupid impossibility. I hate the fact that this flick insults the audience on every fundamental level. I hate that there are better movies that don’t come to Flagstaff, like the well-reviewed The Bank Job. The movie studios and our sole theater tend to overlook quality filmmaking in favor of box-office dollars, and I might just hate that most of all.