Tuesday 29 July 2008

10,000 B.C (2008)

Tuesday 29 July 2008
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writers: Roland Emmerich & Harald Kloser

Cast: Steven Strait (D'Leh), Camilla Belle (Evolet), Cliff Curtis (Tic'Tic), Joel Virgel (Nakuda), Afif Ben Badra (Warlord), Mo Zinal (Ka'Ren), Nathanael Baring (Baku), Mona Hammond (Old Mother), Marco Khan (One-Eye), Reece Ritchie (Moha), Joel Fry (Lu'Kibu), Kristian Beazley (D'Leh's Father), Junior Oliphant (Tudu), Boubacar Badaine (Quina), Tim Barlow (Pyramid God) & Omar Sharif (Narrator)

Basically a lobotomised Apocalypto, Roland Emmerich's prehistoric adventure isn't historically accurate, isn't exciting, doesn't have any memorable performances, and belatedly morphs into Emmerich's 1994 hit Stargate...

Steven Strait plays D'Leh, a prehistoric hunk whose mountain village of hunter-gatherers is attacked by a Warlord (baritone Afif Ben Badra) and half its populace stolen away to be slaves -- including D'Leh's blue-eyed girlfriend Evolet (Camilla Belle). D'Leh heads off in pursuit with a loin-clothed posse, including best-friend Tic'Tic (Cliff Curtis), with the blessing of village mystic Old Mother (ex-EastEnder Mona Hammond)...

For some reason, the rescue party's ragged clothes protect them from a climate of snowy mountain ranges and they make it all the way to Egypt on foot -- making me wonder why these raiders travelled such a vast distance for a few slaves? Is there a shortfall in Africa? To be honest, this geographic absurdity is just one of many errors: the premature domestication of horses, the use of woolly mammoths as beasts of burden (in the desert?), the existence of pyramids a good 6,000 years too early, etc...

Still, inaccuracy in Hollywood movies is nothing new. Academy Award-winners Braveheart and Gladiator both contain errors to make a history professor choke on his coffee, but those films had an emotional spirit that justified a bit of poetic license. That's just not the case with 10,000 B.C. It's dumb on every level, and only becomes mildly entertaining when it embraces its obvious 10 Million Years B.C-style silliness.

In the Giza-set final act, that includes a blind oracle kept in a pit and a Pyramid God who echoes the Egyptian alien deities in Stargate, things become a bit more pleasurable. As a historical action-adventure it's laboured, limp, silly and inaccurate throughout. As breezy fantasy-tinged nonsense, it's briefly diverting toward the end -- albeit spoiled by a cheesy, totally absurd ending.

Given the fact Emmerich's career leans heavily on overexcited spectacle (Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow), why is 10,000 B.C so visually bland and forgettable? An early woolly mammoth hunt fails to quicken the pulse (bad greenscreen), an attack by "terror birds" (think velociraptor-meets-ostrich) is formulaic sub-Jurassic Park tedium, and a CGI sabre-tooth tiger wanders in from Jumanji. The only impressive FX shots are the aerial views of a pyramid being built, covered in ant-sized people.

What ultimately kills 10,000 B.C is Emmerich's decision to avoid a realistic approach to the material, in such a blatant way. It's no surprise to learn he loves Fingerprints Of The Gods (1995). This is a film where the abundance of mumbo-jumbo inexplicably works, placing the whole thing in the realm of historical fantasy.

The reason for Emmerich's reliance on mysticism is born from the German director's inability to create relatable, interesting, compelling characters on the page -- a misstep not helped by a bad choice of actors all round (Strait only there for his muscles, Belle for her beauty, etc.) For a man of Emmerich's talent and tastes, it's just easier to rely on ancient prophecies and false Gods to keep a storyline active, instead of ensuring his audience are caught up in the story of a man trying to rescue the woman he loves. I never felt a connection between D'Leh and Evolet, and consequently didn't care about any of the film's lukewarm peril.

Emmerich evidently saw Mel Gibson's Apocalypto (it follows its storyline, even including a human sacrifice when the heroes arrive at a pyramid), and saw the opportunity to tell the same story in a different era, with CGI beasties. The aim was probably to pull in audiences put off by Apocalypto's violent realism and (sigh) subtitles. Gibson's epic was far from perfect (historical nitpicks are present there, too), but it's a masterpiece compared to Emmerich's needless, stupid retread for the idiots at the back.

Warner Brothers
Budget: $105 million
109 minutes