The Austin Chronicle

10,000 B.C.

Rated PG-13, 108 min. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Starring Steven Strait, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis, Mona Hammond.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 14, 2008

Willis O'Brien did it first; Ray Harryhausen did it best. No one is ever going re-create the lands beyond beyond or the times before before better than those twin titans of stop-motion Jurassitude – not even Raquel Welch's legendarily skimpy loin-cloth couture, circa One Million Years B.C. (1966). Emmerich comes to the prehistoric party considerably late in the Hollywood timeline, and he arrives bearing neither the spark of creativity nor anything resembling even the flimsiest glimmer of originality. 10,000 B.C. is a stunningly ham-fisted paste job of a caveman flick, directed with all the subtlety of Eegah, woefully acted (those Geico advertisements are considerably more nuanced), and sporting some awfully shoddy CGI effects (the woolly mammoths are up to par, but that saber-toothed tiger seems like a hastily created digital afterthought). Strait, seen to much better effect in the upcoming, Austin-shot Stop-Loss, is D'Leh, a (possibly) Paleolithic hunter with abandonment issues who crosses continents (maybe) to rescue his blue-eyed beloved (Belle) after she and others of their tribe are captured by an equestrian raiding party in the employ of (who knows?) some wigged-out Egyptian proto-pharaohs. Emmerich's narrative is maddeningly vague on plot specifics such as epoch, land mass, and niggling little irritants such as why D'Leh's people resemble a tribe of Stone Age supermodels while the bad guys all look suspiciously Semitic. But most egregious of all is the insurmountable fact that this film is just plain dumb. From its introductory voiceover (by Omar Sharif, no less), which manages to explain nothing while simultaneously eliciting the first of many "What the …?"s, to the cacophonous, Bizarro World, not-quite-but-sort-of-Egyptian finale, which involves all manner of uninspired thievery from Conan the Barbarian, Pamplona's Running of the Bulls, and even Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Pyramids (!), 10,000 B.C. is asinine on an grand scale. Emmerich, the director of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, has been styling himself in the mold of master-of-disaster Irwin Allen for some time now, and with 10,000 B.C. he has finally superceded the retro-cheese meta-cool of his apparent stylistic mentor and created a boneheaded mock-epic that's so bad it verges on – but never achieves – some sort of desultory mad genius. The only evolution in question here is that of Emmerich's skills as a director of motion pictures.

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