Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser
Starring: Steven Strait, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis, Joel Virgel, Nathanael Barin, Affif Ben Badra
Heroes have always existed throughout history, but some just haven’t been documented in the books. At least that’s what 10,000 BC wants you to believe with its story. Even with how nonsensical and purely erroneous the story turned out, this film fits my sensibilities and I begrudgingly enjoy some of it.
Within the Yagahl tribe, their main source of food comes from mammoths and the act of killing one gives the slayer the “White Spear” and can lead the tribe. During a hunt, D’Leh (Steven Strait) kills one to receive the honor but his village gets attacked by men on horses, as they take some members prisoner, including D’Leh’s love interest, Evolet (Camilla Belle).
Some films are so bad that you kind of enjoy them. They reach a point where you almost admire how bad they are because they tap into some of your sensibilities, which forms my opinion of 10,000 BC. For all their faults, I do enjoy films that take place in ancient times with characters and languages that I have never heard of. Some call this genre “sword and sandals.” They typically take place during the Roman Empire or beforehand. As made evident by the title, this film takes place many years before. Throughout this film, plenty of animals that historians can only estimate what they looked like appear and my nerd brain lit up. However, overall 10,000 BC does not offer up anything else with its narrative and part of it comes from the wildly historical inaccuracies.
Throughout the story, many myths articulate who can lead, which might have been part of the selection process for a leader, but I found myself questioning what the storytellers were going for in regard to accuracy. One of the better sequences of the film includes D’Leh falling into a pit and getting stuck with a large Smilodon, essentially a Saber Tooth Tiger as shown in much of the promotional material. The sequences that include D’Leh and the Smilodon are obviously more mythical in their presentation. This idea of the fantastical nature gets hindered when panning to what seems like ancient Egypt, where they had slaves build the pyramids, which actually happened. Then once we arrive in what seems to look like ancient Egypt, we can see Wooly Mammoths being utilized to help build the pyramids as well, which definitely did not happen. It kept going back and forth on how historically accurate they wanted to be with their story. It left me befuddled on how to take everything in because some parts felt fantastical and others did not.
Even when his films turn out as bad as 10,000 BC, Roland Emmerich knows how to make studious money. With works like Independence Day, 2012, and The Day After Tomorrow, they may vary in quality but they all made so much money at the box office. He continued that trend in this film to ridiculous effect. A topic that would not regularly receive much of an audience came out to experience this deep dive into history, I guess. It demonstrates that he can capture a large cinematic experience through his filmmaking. The scope of this film feels vast as D’Leh travels from his tribe and eventually to what appears to be ancient Egypt. While a plethora of CGI was certainly used, everything feels grand and each of his films has that feeling. Emmerich provides a reason for people to leave their homes and attend the cinema. His landscapes look putrid but they contain such a size that seeing them on the big screen becomes a requirement. For better or worse, the proof comes out in the box office receipts, no matter the quality of the film.
Incredibly sloppy, unsure of its story, and utterly ridiculous, 10,000 BC tries to transport the audience to some point in fantasy history for an adventure tale. It had lackluster character development and the CGI looked gawkish at best, but part of me enjoys some of its elements. Not many films look back into this part of history to give an adventure thrill, and this movie provided that for me. Think of it as a limited-time burger that sounds appealing because it has a sauce you like but everything else in it tastes rather gross and you finish it because you already paid for it.
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