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Review

New flick ‘10,000 B.C.’ fails to live up to epic hype

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March 13, 2008

It is ironic that “10,000 BC” dawns with the narration “only time can teach us what is truth and what is legend.” The film attempts to capture an essence of pre-civilization, but instead proves that time doesn’t distinguish truth from myth—it only blurs the lines. Director/co-writer Roland Emmerich embraces this historical haziness, adding even more layers as his faux-epic first flirts with absurdity before swan-diving into preposterousness. 

The Yagahl, a receding tribe of snuffleupagus hunters, are preparing for their final hunt when they are savagely enslaved by marauders riding “four-legged demons.”  Among the people captured is the blue-eyed child of prophecy, Evolet (Camilla Belle), destined to be the soul-mate of the one who would someday rise up and deliver the tribe to salvation. 

D’Leh (Steven Strait), a lowly hunter cast down for the cowardice of his father, sets out to rescue his beloved Evolet, becoming the caveman equivalent of Braveheart and inspiring the once-peaceful agrarian tribes in the region to rise up and overthrow their oppressors, a pyramid-building empire reminiscent of biblical Egypt. 

Mr. Emmerich has made a habit of producing action-oriented end-of-the-world hero-quests that appeal more to your sense of wow than your sense of how. And even though this latest farce attempts to whisk viewers back to the beginning of all things, “10,000 BC” still retains a desperate terminal charm, one that finds hope just out of reach.

This dose of pre-historic apocalyptic adventure, along with a dash of religious allusion, does little to mask what boils down to a simple “boy meets girl” story. D’Leh meets Evolet. D’Leh loses Evolet. D’Leh fights to win Evolet back. It’s love in the time of cave-dwellers rooted in the philosophy that the action will ensnare guys while the quest for love will entice girls. 

This excited tension unfortunately grinds to a halt because of the very computer animated cog that should thread even the most wayward elements together. At times the CGI falters from fantastic to phony, shattering the suspension of disbelief while ripping viewers out of their fantasy and throwing back in their face the fact that they are merely sitting in a theater chair.

Hiding behind this silk-screen curtain of falsified reality is a Frankenstein’s monster of a script. Emmerich and co-writer Harald Kloser borrow ideas-entire scenes, even from their inspiration. Sadly, none of “10,000 BC’s” frantic action can compare to the poetry in motion that was Scrat’s acorn-driven misadventures in “Ice Age,” and at least “Quest for Fire” knew enough to not give cavemen speech.

“10,000 BC” isn’t a classic, or even a convincing period piece, but it is a pretty cool action-adventure popcorn-flick; the space empty of story and brains is more than filled with heart and adrenaline.

This is a coloring book of thematic elements; while Emmerich is safe following the rules by coloring within the lines, his art will never be masterpiece.

Ken Weigend is an alumnus of UW-River Falls. He was editor of the Student Voice during spring semester 2010.