10,000 BC

10,000 BC


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

A long long time ago in The Past, when men were real men and women were real women and mammoths were bad CGI, a tribe of hunters lived on a bleak mountainside, where they wore skins and messy make-up but made sure to keep their facial hair perfectly groomed. Then one day, raiders came. The people found horses much more frightening than mammoths and caved immediately; the raiders took slaves. Among them was the girl D'Leh loved, so, accompanied by the surviving hunters, he set out to try and save her. This is his story.

10,000 BC opens with clunking narration (from Omar Sharif, no less) which makes prehistory sound like a bad fantasy poem, and it only goes downhill from there. Which is a relief, really. What might have been a mediocre movie with a few irritating flaws turns out to be the funniest film you're likely to see this year. Entirely constructed from flaws, it's in a class with Ultraviolet - The Producers would have struggled to create a work of this calibre. The dialogue is terrible (upon entering the jungle, one character announces flatly, "It's hot here."), the acting atrocious. The special effects might have been created by a four-year-old using poster paint, and the cinematographer really ought to take the whole thing back to Boots and ask for his money back. Lurching along from one clumsily orchestrated set piece to another, it seems that someone took each scene and asked "What's the stupidest thing we could do here?", before proceeding to do just that.

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Travel through the low-oxygen environment of high mountains has been known to have some strange effects on the brain, so perhaps we might consider everything after the first 15 minutes of the film to be a dream sequence - otherwise, we must accept that, somewhere along the way, our heroes also travel in time. There's a trip to the past to fight feathered dinosaurs, which would make the Creationists proud, then a leap forward several centuries to visit some famous pieces of architecture which, it is conjectured, were built using mammoths. Has anyone ever seen Roland Emmerich and Erich von Daniken together? I claim my five pounds!

As the story develops it manages to run though every imaginable cliche without pausing for breath. There's the absent father whose true fate was concealed from his son; the old woman who delivers a terrible prophecy; the untrained young white man whose natural something-or-other leads him to command an army of otherwise despairing blacks; the hero who risks his life to save a monster; even the mysterious 'mark upon the skin' which promises the doom of an empire.

During their journey, our heroes manage to give themselves away at every opportunity, to break into prison, and to march across the desert without stopping for food or rest (why did no one at any other point in history think of that?), though presumably they're still stopping to attend to their personal grooming. Their hunting strategy involves finding a really fast animal, deliberately startling it, then running along after it. They throw spears, yet seem not to have invented the throwing spear. But they're clearly smart, as we see them invent war, diplomacy, navigation and agriculture all before breakfast.

Mel Gibson's breathtaking Apocalypto proved that it's possible to set a thrilling story in a primitive world and deliver everything a modern audience wants. By contrast, Emmerich's film would fail to impress even if it had been made in the Stone Age. One can imagine archaeologists digging it up, coughing politely, looking the other way and then putting it back again. It's fit for grave goods only in the sense that it's a grave mistake. But the scale of that mistake really has to be seen to be believed, and watching it is, for all the wrong reasons, enormously entertaining.

Reviewed on: 11 Mar 2008
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10,000 BC packshot
When the woman he loves is taken by slavers, a young mammoth hunter sets out to try and save her.
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Stephen Carty *1/2

Director: Roland Emmerich

Writer: Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser

Starring: Steven Strait, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis, Joel Virgel, Affif Ben Badra, Mo Zinal, Nathanael Baring, Mona Hammond

Year: 2008

Runtime: 109 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US, New Zealand


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