10,000 B.C. * 1/2
This woolly pachyderm-sized tall tale of tribal warfare was directed on an epic scale by Roland Emmerich ("The Day After Tomorrow"). Turning his attention to the day before yesterday, he feels equally little obligation to realism, spinning an uninteresting, scattered yarn that owes more to Edgar Rice Burroughs than anthropology.
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There are shaggy-dog stories, and then there are shaggy-mammoth stories. "10,000 B.C." is a pachyderm-sized tall tale of prehistoric ardor and tribal warfare directed on an epic scale by Roland Emmerich, who subjected New York to an instant ice age in "The Day After Tomorrow." Turning his attention to the day before yesterday, he feels no greater obligation to realism, spinning a yarn that owes more to Edgar Rice Burroughs than anthropology.
The scattered narrative is explained on the fly by a gabby elder, the Hamburger Helper of storytelling. Speaking in the "And lo, it came to pass" school of voice-overs, he guides us through the scenic but underdramatized film.
When a clan of northern mammoth hunters holds its seasonal mighty warrior competition, self-doubting D'Leh (Steven Strait) wins by default. Tangled in the net and dragged along to the creature's semi-accidental death, he accepts credit for the kill because it entitles him to claim his childhood love Evolet (Camilla Belle) as his mate.
But Old Mother, a wise woman with so many trinkets braided in her hair that she looks like a wind chime, foresees doom. A thundering pack of "four-legged demons" on horseback sacks the village for slaves, carrying off Evolet among their prisoners. With a small band of spear-carriers, D'Leh sets off across uncharted mountains and deserts to free his people. Evolet, sporting the kind of twine-and-bone ritual bracelets popular two years ago at Abercrombie and Fitch, drops pieces in a trail for D'Leh to follow across the trackless wastes, a primitive form of GPS tracking system.
The first 30 minutes of "10,000 B.C." suffers from tired blood, but the pace picks up when the dreadlocked searchers reach warmer climates. There are skirmishes with the slave traders, velociraptor-style attacks by gigantic ostrich creatures, and even a passage when D'Leh befriends a saber-toothed tiger. That might have been intended as comic relief, although the scenes lumber by so stiffly it's hard to tell. After drawing several African tribes to their cause, the hunters enter a mock-Egyptian empire where captive multitudes - and harnessed mammoths - build pyramids to the glory of the god-king.
The guards, Arabic-looking weightlifter types who wear curly-toed genie slippers, have a fearsome way with a whip. Still, D'Leh and his men infiltrate the construction gang, ready to spark an uprising and a mammoth stampede.
The film was handsomely shot in exotic locations, and its budget, reportedly well north of $100 million, bought a lot of impressive special effects. But in the real world of heroic historical loincloth adventures, "10,000" is much less than "300."