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10,000 BC: An epic missing the epic portion

Posted by goldwriting on March 30, 2008

10000_bc_2.jpg Seriously, I’d give you a Tic-Tac if I had one, but I really don’t. Does it look like I have pockets on this thing?

There are many in the film criticism world who cringe at the name Roland Emmerich (greatest work to date: Independence Day). At the mere mention they’re heads are flooded with overdone and overblown images from Godzilla (1998), The Thirteenth Floor (1999) and The Day After Tomorrow (2004), a laundry list of very ill received films by audiences and critics alike. But, that rush of images keeps us from remembering his previous hits, such as Universal Soldier (1992), Independence Day (1996) and The Patriot (2000). In my mind, Independence Day still rests as the best of the War of the Worlds remakes, that’s right Spielberg, it’s leaps and bounds more enjoyable than yours. So, for me, the name dropping of Roland Emmerich doesn’t instill instant fear or any cringe worthy responses, just a slight sense of curiosity with tempered excitement. With those feelings in place, I casually walked into 10,000 BC after hearing weeks of people tear it apart. I had to see whether it was that bad and maybe, just maybe, find that it was bad enough to turn the tide and be good.

Nope, it was just bad.

Roland definitely has a love and a certain level of vision for the epic sized movies. It shows throughout this film with sweeping shots of the countryside, the Kingdom of the Gods and the neverending snow-capped landscapes. Unfortunately it takes more than epic cinematography to make a movie truly epic and this one didn’t fill in those gaping holes. The basic story breaks down like this: Guy mets girl, guy loses girl, guy goes to get girl back. It’s a classic, we know it, we love it. Along the way it’s revealed that this guy, D’Leh, played by Steven Strait (greatest work to date: Undiscovered), fulfills some type of prophecy in every town he goes to. In his home village the prophecy has to do with the man who takes the mystery girl. That man will help lead their people to new age of food and prosperity. After she is taken, he reaches a new village and finds there he fits the bill in their prophecy about a man who talks to the Sabertooth, which will lead them against their enemies in the Kingdom of the Gods. If that wasn’t enough to heap onto one man’s shoulders, when he finally reaches the Kingdom of the Gods, there is one last prophecy that is filled by the scars on his girlfriend’s hand which magically create the symbol of the hunter, the one thing that scares their almighty deity. [Side note: This was one of the worst plot devices in the film since the scars didn’t look like the symbol at all, the celestial formation of Orion the Hunter.] It ended up being way too many prophecies and long foretold tales coming together at once, rendering it completely unbelievable.

Luckily for Roland and his crew, there are many people who couldn’t care less about the balance and believability of the story, they went for the CGI effects and to witness massive woolly mammoth stampedes. Since the advent of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, audiences have only increased in their cravings for realistic monster footage and visuals we will never be able to witness in real life. The film could have been completely held up by the effects alone, but that ended up failing as well. The early mammoth chase by the villagers wasn’t captured with any depth or realism and ended up looking like numerous scenes from the Star Wars prequels, flat and lifeless. [Yep, I just laid some smack down on George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in the same review, I’m on a roll here.] After the opening volley of CGI shots, they did improve slightly with a rather enjoyable battle in the Kingdom of the Gods at the end, but by that point I had been let too far down to be pulled all the way back into the film. Then, whatever feelings of confusion I had over whether the movie could work it’s way back to decent ground were crushed by the hokey and needlessly mystical ending. Once again it was proof that you make or break your audience in the last five minutes. I left broken, totally broken.

Roland has another movie in the works called 2012 which I am sure I’ll give a chance to, but as the scale starts to tip towards more bad films than good ones, the audiences will begin to wane, no longer swayed by huge monsters, massive CGI natural disasters and impressive helicopter photography. We need more, we demand more. [Last side note: Just to let Roland know, I actually was one of the few people that did enjoy The Day After Tomorrow. A little stilted in dialogue at some points, but overall nicely done.]

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