A film review by Craig J. Koban

10,000 B.C. jjj

2008, PG-13, 110 mins.

Steven Strait: D'Leh / Camilla Belle: Evolet / Cliff Curtis: Tic'Tic / Omar Sharif: Narrator

Directed by Roland Emmerich / Written  by Emmerich and Harald Kloser

"Travel back through time and space to the edge of man's beginnings...discover a savage world whose only law was lust!"

- Marketing tagline for the 1966 film ONE MILLION YEARS B.C.


10,000 B.C. is history as written by horny, prepubescent boys.  It taps into every man’s male fantasy:  We have a prehistoric, rough 'n rugged and chiseled caveman that looks like a GQ cover model that has to battle his way through woolly mammoths, giant man-eating ostriches, ferocious saber tooth tigers, and eventually slashes his way through thousands of proto-Egyptian villains in order to save the love of his life.  The woman is the perfect embodiment of physical beauty, at least for our time: long brown hair, a luscious set of lips with perfect teeth, neatly manicured nails and eye lashes, and an ample bosom that is greatly amplified by what appears to be a prehistoric Wonderbra. 

Critics and filmgoers that expect and demand historical veracity in the images and story in 10,000 B.C. seriously need to give their collective heads a shake.  Roland Emmerich’s cheese and schlock infested epic owes very little to the staunch and ever-present verisimilitude of other historical outings like THE QUEST FOR FIRE or 2006’s fantastic APOCALYPTO.  At it’s heart, 10,000 B.C. is more of a giddy and stupendously silly ode to the bloated extravagances of a Cecile B. Demille epic and the fantastical, male bravado entrenched aesthetic of the characters of Robert Howard, whose work on Conan The Barbarian is echoed here.  10,000 B.C. is not historically accurate…of course it’s not!  It’s an ahistorical mythological fairy tale that ignores even a cursory knowledge of prehistory, geography, and biology.  This is the Cliff Notes version of the Cliff Notes version of this time period and is purposefully as anachronistic as it is jolly, frivolous, and wonderfully insipid.  It strives to prove an old adage that a film does not necessarily need to be accurate in order for it to be any good or entertaining.   

Yes, the film is undercut by a persistent and overwhelming essence of inanity, not to mention that the underlining story is right from the cliché factory and the dialogue has a hilarious “Me Tarzan, you Jane” simplicity, but 10,000 B.C. does not concern itself with being a pretentious historical film.  This is a fantasy-action extravaganza that Emmerich has been competently pulling off for awhile, ones where the lavish and oftentimes jaw-dropping eye candy and state-of-the-art visual effects take prominence.  As an out-of-body work of pure escapism, 10,000 B.C achieves the status quo.  It’s also too ham-infested to be taken too literally, which helps to easily deflect dumb criticisms of intellectually bankruptcy and historical inaccuracy.  Heroic good guys, dastardly bad guys, massive creatures, and a quest to save the babe…that’s 10,000 B.C.’s modus operandi.  

To keep its footing as a mythological fable, 10,000 B.C. opts top tell one of the oldest tales in the book - one of gaining love, losing it, and then engaging in a life-threatening quest to re-claim it…and all with the solemn and authoritative voice over narration of Omar Shariff (Morgan Freeman was unavailable).  We meet the hunter-warrior named D’Leh (played in an effectively wooden performance by Steven Straight, who looks like a rejected human extra from BATTLEFIELD EARTH).  He has always loved the unattainable gorgeous cavegirl- hotty that is Evolet (played by real life hotty Camilla Belle) and has professed that they are destined to free their people from the hostility of the “four legged demons.”  Alas, wouldn’t you know it, their clan impedes their budding love, but the tribe’s mystic known as Old Mother (whose astonishing, trancelike epiphanies littered throughout the film are unmitigated howlers) seems to think that D’Leh is the chosen one to carry the "White Spear” and protect the clan…and to get it on with Evolet, often referred to as "The Blue Eyed One." 

As with all stories of prehistoric courtship, their love is interrupted by a warmongering tribe of brutes and slave owners that raid D’Leh’s village and – horror upon horror – kidnap the helpless Evolet.  D’leh is also captured, but he escapes and thus begins his long – very, very long – journey to chase after the marauders and reclaim his trophy gal.  The film gets a lot of sly giggles in the way it presents its wonky geography:  At times it looks like D’Leh and company cross vast deserts to lush tropical jungles to mountainous snowy terrain within hours.  Hee-hee.  Along the way D’leh becomes sort of a messiah for convincing a series of other tribes to join his quest.  After making it through “The Lost Valley’ and then through “the deserts of limitless sands”, D’Leh and his rag-tag group of warriors reach a gigantic pre-Egyptian city where thousands of slaves erect immeasurable tall pyramids.  Not only do they use human slave labor, but they also have tortured several woolly mammoths into submission to do all of their heavy pulling (PETA would go ballistic) and poor little Evolet is being threatened with death via ritualistic sacrifice by the ghoulish Egyptian-like villains.  

As Chuck Heston might say, “Damn them…damn them all to hell!” 

On a visual level, 10,000 B.C. can aptly be described as the largest and most elaborate prehistoric epic since...say... 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (okay, the Dawn of Man scenes in that latter film only occupied the first few minutes, but you get my drift).  Emmerich, who has helmed effects heavy films before, like INDEPENDENCE DAY, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, and STARGATE knows how to get the best bang for his buck.  Several moments and action set piece are startlingly awesome in scope:  an opening sequence involving a herd of hundreds of woolly mammoths is astonishing, as is a later scene where D’Leh and company are attacked by huge, carnivorous prehistoric birds.  The concluding third act sequence involving the vast slave-trade pyramid building is astonishing (it borrows copiously from THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, but the size and scale here dwarfs that film).   Emmerich, like George Lucas and Peter Jackson, has an unqualified eye for delivering gasp-inducing spectacle, and 10,000 B.C. is no exception. 

The film starts out looking like it's grasping at anthropological realism, but as it progressed it more or less settles down into corny intrigued.  If I wanted to attack the realism of the film than I would do so by attacking the attackers of film's realism:  How do we not know that prehistoric men of thousands of years ago didn’t have great teeth, ripped bodies, and decent features?  It has been argued that man at this time must have been incredibly healthy considering the hardships of the times, not to mention their dangerously short life spans.  And as for all of the characters' seemingly perfect hygiene?  One article I read wisely pointed out that people of this time did not eat any processed sugars or sweets, which would have benefited their teeth.  There have also been discoveries of prehistoric mummies with teeth in good shape considering the thousands of years being buried.  So, I guess it could be argued that it's as foolhardy to assume that prehistoric people looked either good or bad, but I sincerely believe that no prehistoric woman looked as good as Camilla Belle, not to mention that there were no such things as braziers to help viewers of 10,000 B.C. gaze upon her stunning assets. 

10,000 B.C is a deceptively easy movie to mock and ridicule, but with the proper frame of mind – and with your brain and pragmatic predispositions left in check – then it's a delightfully and entertainingly preposterous popcorn film that is undeniably fun to watch.  With wondrous CGI-realized set pieces and sights, a level of aggressive testosterone, a story that contains an epic and dangerous trek and a hunky brute trying to save his buxom lass, 10,000 B.C. is too dumb to be taken too seriously, but don’t be too serious going in or you may overlook how much of a laughingly enjoyable ride it is...with just a very meager portion of historical practicality.  All this movie lacks is Rachel Welch wearing next to nothing cavorting around with dinosaurs.  

Oh well...we can't have everything.

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