10,000 BC makes for modern mediocrity

Roland Emmerich has had an epic career. Independence Day, Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow are all movies he has directed that focus on something that is completely enormous. Whatever it is – alien spacecrafts, a mutant lizard, a snow storm – it has to be mind-numbingly huge. So how can we take this tried-and-true blockbuster formula and apply it to his latest explosion of light and sound on the screen, known as 10,000 B.C.? This time it is applied to the size of the adventure, of course! Oh, and the animals. There are some seriously huge animals to watch out for.

Let’s start with the good things first. For the most part, 10,000 B.C. is a visually pleasing movie. Watching the mammoths stampede during the hunt is fun, and the birds provide an exciting chase scene. The landscape shots provide beautiful looks at snowcapped mountains, dense jungles and sandy deserts (yes, all three – I’ll explain later).

The score for the film is what you would expect for this kind of outing – rousing orchestrated pieces with deep horn melodies and powerful drums – and it works well within the context of the atmosphere that the story is trying to achieve. But what is the story behind 10,000 B.C.?

This is where elements begin to get problematic. It is as though Emmerich awoke one morning and said to himself, “I want to make a movie about people and huge mammoths!” and an important producer with cigar-in-mouth replied, “Mammoths? I love it! Here’s lots of money!”

The story has the simplicity of a Dr. Seuss book, but without the creativity or fun. It is a thinly disguised basic love story that consists of one tribe of people meeting with other tribes, gaining their trust and pursuing a bad tribe that has taken some of the good tribes’ people as slaves. The plot is not necessarily bad; it’s just bland and riddled with clichés.

But this is where it gets ridiculous. Somehow after what appears to be a day of walking, our heroic tribe has moved from their snowy home in the mountains to a jungle. No kidding, like a tropical rainforest. One of the characters even exclaims how hot it is.

Fast forward to what appears to be another day or so (a voiceover later explains that “many moons” have passed), and the tribe is now in the desert. Big, sandy dunes are all around. The abrupt changes in scenery/climate seem almost absurd, but it helps to overshadow the lack of actual plot.

Other problems lie within the direction and the acting. Again, while it’s not necessarily bad, it is very mediocre and stiff.

Some shots reveal the grandeur that the movie always seems to be trying to showcase, while others leave you rolling your eyes and shaking your head.

Given that they have so little to work with, the actors do a fine enough job. Every line is spoken as though to provide some profound insight or deep moral, but considering they all have such a lack of context, they all feel very flat.

I don’t regret seeing 10,000 B.C. Though it consistently falls short of its epic ambitions, it is at least able to retain some of that campy, B-movie fun and entertainment.