10,000 B.C. movie poster
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10,000 B.C. movie poster

10,000 B.C. Movie Review

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The first big movie of the year arrived in theaters this weekend, and that movie was 10,000 B.C., the Roland Emmerich action-adventure film. Set amidst a time of nomadic people, pyramids, mammoths and sabretooth tigers, the movie does not seek to be historically accurate or even entirely plausible, but to simply be entertaining. And it succeeds on that note.

No one expected 10,000 B.C. to be a terrific movie, especially me. It looked like it could be fun, but there was little question in my mind that it would be rather mindless and goofy. Going in with those expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by the film, though a few tweaks could have made it a lot better. An amalgam of Apocalypto and Stargate, though not nearly as good as either, the movie is full of adventure and peasant rebellion, but not much else.

10,000 B.C. is about a mammoth hunter who is forced to live up to his destiny when his fiance is kidnapped by a group of marauders. Setting out across mountains, jungles and deserts, he and a few fellow warriors track their friends and the kidnappers to an expansive civilization unlike anything they've ever seen before. Along the way, they face battles, beasts and even a "god."

The movie succeeds on entertainment value alone; if you go in expecting a deep story, amazing acting, rich dialogue or historical accuracy, you're going to have a problem. While there are a few slow parts, Emmerich, never one to waste time, maintains a consistent pace throughout. The action scenes are varied enough to keep you interested, and the sequences where the protagonists are battling animals are actually better than when they are facing other humans. The mammoth hunt scene is especially good, and Emmerich also pulls off a sequence in a bamboo forest where large, dinosaur-like birds prey on some humans. The drive of the lead character, to regain his kidnapped bride, also gives meaning to the film, much like a similar relationship worked in Apocalypto.

Of course, to compare 10,000 B.C. to that Mel Gibson movie isn't very fair. Gibson is a much better director and Apocalypto a much better movie. Still, it's hard not to deny that there are some major similarities, as both films are essentially about hunters trying to get back to their partners, amidst the expansion of an advanced, pyramid-building empire. At the same time, the movie feels like a lesser version of Stargate, another Emmerich film from the 1990's. I'm a huge fan of the original Stargate, and if 10,000 B.C. did anything for me, it was to entice me to re-watch that movie (which I'm doing as I write this). Stargate is about some ordinary people who empower a slaved race to rise up against a so-called god; 10,000 B.C. is the same, only not as good.

Aside from lacking in comparison to some other, better films, 10,000 B.C. has a few other issues. There are some cheesy moments as Emmerich glosses over a few details here and there. Slow motion scenes of peasants cheering, and unbelievably long and accurate spear throwing make you chuckle at times, though I wasn't really expecting anything less/more. If Emmerich ever decided to apply his visual ambitions to a really good screenplay, he could really go somewhere; but since he doesn't, you get a standard Emmerich film. 10,000 B.C. clearly isn't as good as some of his earlier films (Stargate and Independence Day come to mind) and is still a step down from others like The Patriot and The Day After Tomorrow, but if you like these movies in general, you'll probably find something to like in 10,000 B.C. Thankfully, it's no Godzilla.

My only other issue with the movie are the visual effects. While the mammoths and pyramids are quite well done, other effects don't fare nearly as well. The sabretooth tiger is poorly done, and the killer birds don't look particularly realistic. There are a few scenery shots where it's clear Emmerich just pasted his actors over stock footage, and a shot near the end of the top of a pyramid tumbling down the side looks ridiculous.

10,000 B.C. accomplishes what it sets out to do, but consistent visual effects and an audit on overused and tacky moments could have really made this a better film. Nevertheless, this is another mindlessly entertaining Roland Emmerich film, and if that sounds good to you, then it's certainly worth seeing.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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