Saturday, November 23, 2019

Blast from the Past Movie Review: 10,000 BC (2008)

Once upon a time, not long after I graduated from the University of Georgia, a movie called 10,000 BC came out. The reviews were poor and I probably had more important things to do, so I didn't bother to see it even though I vaguely thought it looked kind of cool. However, I eventually got Netflix to watch The Dark Crystal show and obviously I'm not going to pay $12.99 per month for just one show, so I decided to snag this one on a whim.

The Plot

In prehistoric Europe (per the Wikipedia it's somewhere in the Ural Mountains, although I got the vibe it was just north of the Alps), a tribe of mammoth hunters adopts a orphaned girl named Evolet (played as an adult by Camilla Belle). The youth D'Leh (played as an adult by Steven Strait) soon develops a crush on her. As an adult he claims her as his woman by slaying a mammoth, only for her and many other villagers to be taken prisoner by a bunch of vaguely Semitic slave-raiders. He and some friends follow them in a rescue attempt, a journey that will ultimately take them to the Mediterranean and one of the rising civilizations of the Near East.

The Good

*No matter how ridiculous it gets, it's a fast-paced and exciting movie. It's never boring and makes good fodder for exercise--time flies when you're watching cavemen fight giant killer birds, saber-toothed cats, and maybe-Mesopotamian slave-raiders on a journey from Europe all the way to what looks like Egypt. And there are lots of exciting and awesome moments.

*There's some good imagery here, including just what it is that some of the fringe inhabitants of the evil Bronze Age empire's realm describe as birds.

*I'm glad they used prehistoric terror-birds as movie monsters. Although it's been done in the novel The Flock that was long ago optioned for film (although who knows if it'll ever be made), I don't recall it ever being done on film before.

*Although nobody is really stretching themselves, the acting is all right.

*I liked the general look of the protagonist and his tribe. Their mainstay is hunting mammoths and other large game, so their homes and clothing look to be made of animal hides and, for solid structure, bones. They're Caucasian, but they have darker skin and dreadlocks, with the lighter-skinned and blue-eyed Evolet an orphan from a different tribe. Given how the earliest humans came from Africa and genetic evidence suggests early Europeans were darker-skinned as recent as 8,000 years ago, them being in some kind of transitional state between modern notions of "white" and "black" makes sense. And the villains seem rather Mediterranean, which would make sense given how the centers of early civilization were all there and Europe (with the exception of parts of Greece and that was later) was basically a bunch of dudes in bearskins at that point. Mediterranean peoples taking European hunter-gatherers as slaves wouldn't be unrealistic--after all, scientists found a Carthaginian man with maternal-line DNA connecting him to hunter-gatherer peoples who lived in present-day Spain.

*The soundtrack is pretty good.

The Bad

*The dialogue needs a lot of improvement, especially early on in the film. It's clunky and too on-the-nose. The latter part is most blatant with the young D'Leh and Evolet--for someone who's about eight, D'Leh is remarkably poetic about his feelings for Evolet, whom he probably doesn't even really know that well at this point. The dialogue continues to be bad, leading to several moments of unintentional hilarity. Honestly I would have thought someone like Roland Emmerich could have found a better screenwriter to co-write the film with him.

*Even though they did get some of the ethnic stuff (maybe) right, as TVTropes put it, the film puts Rule of Cool ahead of anything remotely resembling historical accuracy. If you don't care about that sort of thing this isn't a problem, but if you do it's probably a low-level irritation. Seriously, an Italian or Swiss (or maybe even Russian) hunter-gatherer leads a tribe of Zulus or Kushites to war against what looks like either Egypt or Sumer that's ruled by a god-king type who may or may not be human. And one of his minions looks like a Middle Eastern John Wayne (with a mullet no less) who has the voice of a Goa'uld and talks in the Black Speech.

*It's hard to tell some of the cavemen characters apart, especially early on in the film.

*I'd have loved more on the main villain, whom we don't meet until much later. Not going into more detail for reasons of spoilers. There are some hints, but they're very blink-and-you-miss-it. I only got the clue from checking TVTropes to make sure I didn't miss anything.

The Verdict

If you're looking for a prehistoric fantasy movie in the vein of Fire and Ice or the caveman films of the late 1960s and early 1970s like When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth and One Million Years BC with better special effects, go for it. A good movie to rent or stream, especially if you need something to keep you busy while you exercise. 7.5 out of 10.

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