To date, and after nearly a decade and a half of mounting big-budget blockbusters, Roland Emmerich (2004's "The Day After Tomorrow
") has yet to direct a good movie. The screenplays he works from are terribly egregious in their clunkiness and clichés, and no matter how promising his premises are, if he's involved, it can almost be assured that he'll mess up the proceedings somehow. Case in point: "10,000 B.C." Portraying a world onscreen that is supposed to be over twelve thousand years in the past is exciting in theory, and the directions the story could have gone allows one's imagination to run rampant. Had Emmerich and co-writer Harold Kloser taken the time to research what is known about this ancient period, their learnings may have inspired them to really explore the era on film rather than waste over $100-million on a hackneyed script that squanders its concept to an interminable degree.
In an unidentified location where every terrain and climate the earth has to offer is but a magical footstep away, D'Leh (Steven Strait) grows up knowing that his one true love is the blue-eyed Evolet (Camilla Belle), an orphan girl taken in and welcomed by his tribe when she was still just a child. After fair maiden Evolet is snatched up by invaders riding on "four-legged demons" (read: horses) and dropped onto their chain gang, D'Leh and a few of his trusted friends set out on a death-defying trek to rescue her. In doing so, D'Leh moves ever closer to discovering his one true destiny.
"10,000 B.C." is a load of crap dressed up with pretty background vistas. The plot, which is much more mystical but no less banal than the above synopsis makes it sound, is hogwash that director Roland Emmerich should have scrapped from the get-go. The lead characters amazingly speak perfect English and, in what seems like a matter of days, manage to travel through snowy mountains, jungles, prairies and deserts. The writing is wretched. The love story between D'Leh and Evolet is flat and forgettable; why should we care about these empty-souled ciphers when there is nothing emotionally viable to latch onto? Meanwhile, the acting is so bad that even the performing company at the Barstow Theatre Playhouse would laugh them out of the audition rooms. This regrettably extends to Steven Strait (2006's "The Covenant
") and Camilla Belle (2006's "When a Stranger Calls
"), who blankly stare off into the distance as if they've been drugged and have no idea they're in front of the cameras. Their sheer listlessness is understandable.
There is enough agreeable eye-candy in the first half for the viewer to at least temporarily be fooled into thinking what they're watching isn't all that bad. An early sequence involving a herd of wooly mammoths is impressively epic in scale, while a jungle attack by some mean, oversized ostriches is like something out of 2005's "King Kong
." The CGI effects in bringing these creatures to life are only adequate. Amazing though it is, the dinosaurs in 1993's "Jurassic Park" are more photorealistic than any of the visual effects in "10,000 B.C.," and the scenes with a prowling saber-toothed tiger are downright amateurish in their failure to believably have the cat exist in the same shots as the live-action humans.
With the bulk of the "10,000 B.C." highlight reel exhausted by the one-hour mark, the film slows to such a languid, uneventful pace that it could seriously lull some viewers to sleep. For those staying awake, the experience is an all-out bore culminating in a climax at an Egyptian temple that is underwhelming in the extreme. The ending is even more ridiculous than what has come before itno small featand seals the deal on a project that is a DOA dud any way you spin it. "10,000 B.C." is terminally lifeless, something that a so-called "event" picture should never be. Were it any worse, it would be approaching "Battlefield Earth
"/Uwe Boll territory.