In this image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Steven Straight, portraying D'Leh, is threatened by a saber-tooth tiger in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' epic adventure "10,000 B.C."
Occasionally I go to see a movie that I think must be a joke. Not a literal joke, as in one of the "Naked Gun" films, but a hidden-camera, I-can't-believe-you-fell-for-it, did-you-really-think-we-were-serious bad movie. Most of the time, these films are so obliviously silly that it's hard to even be angry about the loss of the ticket price. At the very least, the pure ridiculousness of it all is worth a laugh or two. The epic pre-history blockbuster "10,000 B.C." is just such a movie.
Set, as the title so deftly suggests, 10,000 years before the birth of Christ, our story centers around a group of hunter/gatherers whose perfect teeth and skin seem strangely at odds with terrible wigs and ragged clothing. Apparently dentists and dermatologists were among the first of mankind's professions. They are a mountain people whose hard-scrabble life is based entirely on the ability to harvest that most picturesque of all pre-historic creatures, the wooly mammoth. And harvest they do. In a scene reminiscent of the buffalo chase in "Dances with Wolves," our dreadlocked detachment of hunters run down a whole herd of the hairy, tusked behemoths.
Sadly, however, Old Mother has prophesied that this will be the last hunt. This story is lousy with prophesies. So many, in fact, that it's often hard to tell whether you're coming or going. It's the foretellings of this wrinkled soothsayer that eventually leads to the coming of the four-legged demons, the arrival of He-who-speaks-to-speartooths, the flight of the giant red birds, and possibly of the forthcoming dot-com collapse.
Following the kidnapping of half the village, our heroes are forced to depart their comfortable mountain existence and follow the raiders through the grasslands, to the river, and even across the great desert. Along the way they meet myriad other peoples, all of whom join with the hunters to create a large and eclectic army. It seems that our heroes aren't the only ones who've been raided, and a substantial force will be necessary to free the abducted.
But why have so many been taken? Our band of rescuers, upon emerging from the desert sands, discover the truth. A massive construction project is underway on the banks of the Nile. Three guesses as to which Wonder of the World we're talking about.
"10,000 B.C.," despite having lousy acting, laugh-out-loud dialogue, and inconsistent special effects, does manage to put forth a few intriguing ideas. The best of the lot? The answer to the age-old question of how the pyramids were built: two words -- mammoth power. It's a good thing that the wooly beasts play such a big part in this story, as they are the best of the effects. The rest, including the sabre-toothed tiger that plays so heavily in the advertising and some bizarre vulture/ostrich/dinosaur hybrids, feel more like leftovers from a 1950s stop-motion monster movie.
One of my biggest problems with this movie may seem relatively inconsequential compared to all the other failings, but I think accuracy in storytelling should at least be attempted. For this tale, the writers did a cursory Google-search on pre-history and ended up with a melange of contradictory historical elements which do more to confuse than enlighten. For example, common scientific opinion states that the pyramids were built somewhere around 4,000 B.C. There is another, slightly controversial theory that they were built much earlier, around the time our story takes place, but the reason for that is that the weathering patterns on the monuments suggest a very wet, rainy climate, which Egypt last had 12,000 years ago. The writers of "10,000 B.C." picked up on the date, but missed the whole rainy part. Maybe that's minor, but it bugged me, as did the fact that, without a definite racial designation for our prehistoric denizens, the filmmakers decided to use 'em all, from Asian, African, and Slavic to good old corn-fed Mid-Western Caucasion. The devil's in the details. Maybe mammoths could have built the pyramids (no they couldn't), but why would they be in the middle of the desert? If you're just going to make stuff up, why not giant pre-historic camels?
Maybe I'm putting too great a burden on the makers of such a silly movie, but they asked for it when they make the claim that theirs is the legend to end all legends. Better to go into this movie with the attitude of the audience I saw it with -- a group who started laughing early and by the end were whooping and applauding in all the right parts, albeit with heavy sarcasm.
In the end, what's the difference? The audience had a good time, and the studio made a pile of money, so everybody wins, right? At the very least, unlike the bad movies of Michael Bay, "10,000 B.C." isn't mean, cruel, or exploitative. It's just dumb, and there are much worse things than that.
"10,000 B.C." is rated PG-13 for scary mammoth stampeding and dinosaur bird violence.
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.
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