The choice to have the actors in Mel Gibson’s early-man epics “Apocalypto” and “The Passion of the Christ” speak entirely in dead languages added a kind of hisorical authority to the films, despite the fact that both movies were terribly silly in other ways. So when the booming voice of Omar Sharif (“Doctor Zhivago”) begins to narrate the new action/adventure “10,000 B.C.” in English, it’s easy to forget that this is set (and titled) after an actual historical time period and not set in some fantasy land.
In fact, director Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow”) does everything in his power to remind us that we are watching a fantasy film, taking little bits from every sword-and-sandal epic of the last fifteen years. If the hunter-and-gatherer tribes of “10,000 B.C.” hadn’t seen “Gladiator” or “The Lord of the Rings” for example, how else would they know when it was time for their leader to make a speech before going into battle? And how would they know when the proper moment was to bang their spears into the ground in sync and cheer?
It stretches credulity enough to have all the dialogue of prehistoric man to be English (except the bad guys, who are subtitled) come straight from the modern Hollywood cliché playbook, but it’s truly amazing how you could plug any number of already-produced films into the time period of 10,000 B.C. and—whala!—you have a new movie called “10,000 B.C.” Yes, I’m going so far as to suggest that that’s exactly how this movie got made in the first place. The pitch probably went something like this:
“It’s like ‘Braveheart,’ except with more CGI. There’s woolly mammoths, sabre-toothed cats, and giant flightless birds—and it’s PG-13—you know, for kids!”
Just some random thoughts about “10,000 B.C.”:
When handsome young tribesman D’Leh (Steven Strait) tells the beautiful, blue-eyed Evolet (Camilla Belle) that he will always keep her in his heart, did he unknowingly just invent that colloquialism?
Did D’Leh pioneer the concept of religious tolerance by uniting all the mountain tribes and their various legends and belief systems against one common foe?
Could old women actually breathe life into the dead by giving their own breath telepathically over thousands of miles?
So it is obvious that “10,000 B.C.” is not trying to recreate any semblance of what it was like to be alive back then. It merely plops a prototypical modern warrior storyline into this setting and pans out exactly how you’d expect it to. Without a Mel Gibson or a Russell Crowe (or a halfway decent script) to carry the film, however, even as a silly fantasy epic, it’s pretty damn silly.
Let’s conclude with special effects, since that’s what most people will be going to see this film for. And, frankly, I’m bored trying to make this obvious argument any longer.
I can certainly appreciate the realistic way that mammoths and terror birds were rendered in “10,000 B.C.” The CGI effects artists did a fine job. One chase scene looks like it was rushed a bit. Maybe that was becuase of the film’s rumored $75 million budget. Either way, the effects look good, but there is little or no excitement to the actual scenes themselves. The way they were shot has something to do with it, but mostly the story is so vapid that it doesn’t matter what happens to any of the characters in these scenes anyway. Eye candy for eye candy’s sake. A fifteen-minute VFX reel would have accomplished the same thing.
In the end, making prehistoric people talk and behave just like modern people in a 10,000 B.C. setting does nobody any favors. The actors look silly, the their costumes are silly, the settings are silly, and the whole movie is pretty unintentionally funny. If Graham Chapman from Monty Python were still alive, he’d be liable to walk into any theater showing this movie and stop the projector at will because it is getting far too silly.