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ISSUE 121 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 3/21/2008

'10,000 B.C.' devoid of thrills, intelligence

By Seth Hendricks
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 21, 2008

From the brilliant mind that brought you such timeless masterpieces as "Universal Soldier" and "The Day After Tomorrow," director Roland Emmerich delivers his next computer generated image-fueled action-adventure in "10,000 B.C." This guy has made a living out of creating apocalyptic sci-fi B-movies.

Emmerich's latest flick can be seen as sort of a crappy prequel to "Stargate" (which he also directed) -- albeit without the aliens, machine guns, nuclear bombs or, sadly, Kurt Russell.

The trailers would have you believe that the movie is about a group of Ancient Egyptians killing woolly mammoths while being attacked by saber-toothed tigers and some savage tribes, which sounds pretty sweet, but this isn't the case. The story starts (circa 10,000 B.C.) with the Yagahl tribe struggling to survive some pesky climate change and kill some mammoths. Oddly enough, the writers had the brass to tell the audience within the first five minutes -- via ridiculous prophecy -- that the protagonist, D'Leh (Steven Strait), is going to save his tribe and hook up with the hot female protagonist, Evolet (Camilla Belle).

We then follow along as D'Leh tries to catch up to a punk warlord who steals his lady and is going around capturing hostages from other tribes. Apparently, all these other tribes have heard the prophecy about D'Leh, so they join up with him and form an angry throng hell-bent on destruction.

The movie gets a pretty good start with all the mammoth killing (who wouldn't want to huck a spear at an extinct, furry elephant?), but deteriorates quickly. The few characters who actually speak English talk like dumb cavemen, which makes it pretty hard to understand what is going on. This wouldn't be a big deal if the plot was as straightforward as it sounds, but there are several outrageous side stories going on at the same time. These include things like what really happened to D'Leh's mysterious father, the super-special White Spear, D'Leh's prophecy, some astrology, Evolet's own prophecy, pyramid-building, D'Leh's buddy Tic 'Tic and some carnivorous bird-monsters. Oh, and D'Leh has the power to speak to animals.

Aside from the meaningless and convoluted storylines, the movie still blows. It clocks in at a brutal 109 minutes. In all this time, there are really only three or four action scenes. Aside from the first one with the woolly mammoths, only the last one is particularly interesting.

My biggest beef is that in all of these "action" scenes, there isn't any satisfying amount of blood -- and that really grinds my gears. How can a movie have people getting impaled by spears and their guts ripped out by flesh-eating ostrich-raptors and not have blood splattering all over the place?

It is pretty hard to come into a movie titled "10,000 B.C." and have realistic expectations for some sort of acting prowess. This is at least one area where the movie will meet expectations. As mentioned above, only a few characters speak English, so the movie relies on subtitles. If I wanted to read (which I don't), I would do my homework (which I don't). The characters who do speak English make it seem like it's a second language to them, but, thankfully, there isn't much dialogue. Perhaps this was an elaborate ploy by the producers to offset the terrible acting of the cast.

Overall, "10,000 B.C." is a movie you should see only if you like being disappointed, or if you like movies that aren't good. If you want a pre-historic movie with man-eating wild animals, tribal warfare, pyramids and (shudder) lots of reading, you should check out "Apocalypto."

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