by HELEN GEIB
10,000 B.C. is an astonishingly bad film. As a person who dearly loves Hollywood action movies and greatly enjoys Hollywood-style spectacle, it gives me no pleasure to write that this is one of the worst films I have ever seen.
The story of 10,000 B.C. can perhaps best be described as the deformed offspring of an ill-advised union between Stargate and Apocalypto. Those were good films. Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, director Roland Emmerich’s prior blockbusters, were fun, too. I enjoyed them. What did those films have that 10,000 B.C. lacks?
1. Talented actors with screen presence. Kurt Russell and James Spader in Stargate. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum head a cast of familiar faces in Independence Day. Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhall in Tomorrow. Unknown and unknown star in 10,000 B.C., and it’s not likely we’ll be seeing them again.
2. Real languages. The tribal peoples in Apocalypto speak in the Mayan language spoken by the non-professional cast. The tribal peoples in 10,000 B.C. speak Noble Savage, a fictive English dialect with a long and inglorious history in the American cinema.
3. A degree of originality. Stargate is the clear leader on this point, with a genuinely original, clever, and exciting premise. Apocalypto follows with its colorful mash of history, culture, and cliche. Even the plot set-ups of the Emmerich films present new twists on the disaster movie genre. 10,000 B.C. appropriates elements from other, better films without bringing anything new to the mix.
4. No voiceover narration. 10,000 B.C. is made immeasurably worse by the indescribably horrible voiceover narration. Alternating among previews of what we are about to see, recaps of what we have just seen, play by play of what we are seeing, and faux-mystical yammering about the legend of the blue-eyed child, the narration is intrusive, redundant, and obnoxious.
5. Thrills. Apocalypto and the Emmerich films start off a bit slow as characters are introduced and plots set in motion, but once they get going they’re non-stop thrill rides. In 10,000 B.C., woolly mammoths stampede and carnivorous ostriches try to eat the love interest and sidekick, and that’s about it. And those sequences aren’t very long. The climactic slave rebellion is too ineptly staged and filmed to be thrilling, and most of the film is actually – incredibly, unbelievably, inconceivably – trying to be dramatic instead of exciting.
When the woolly mammoths stampeded and the floor under my feet reverberated from the sound effects I felt a genuine, albeit short-lived thrill. My childhood fascination with the shaggy behemoth was reinvigorated and for a few moments, I felt pleasure at the cg spectacle. It was the first and last bit of enjoyment I was able to extract from this disaster.