I went into this movie not expecting much. I’ve seen a lot of the older movies about the stone age, and none of them have impressed me either in storyline or in scientific or historical accuracy. The “prehistoric” genre has a tendency towards cliché and unoriginality.
On the whole, however, I was pleasantly surprised. 10,000 BC thrusts you into the world of Dalay (or Delay…I don’t know), a hunter of woolly mammoth for his tribe. As a result of a prophecy of some sort, he finds himself wandering through the wilderness, beyond the borders of the tribe’s tiny known universe. There’s a lot of action and adventure along the way and good things happen and tragedies happen and then it all gets wrapped up by the ending.
All in all, it’s a very atmospheric movie, seemingly filmed partly in that same beautiful stretch of New Zealand that served as Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings films. The tribe’s social organization feels genuine, as does the technology and the characters’ daily lives. I also like the fact that, when they encounter other tribes, none of them speak the same strangely-accented English that Dalay’s tribe speaks. It’s a refreshing change from films where everybody speaks English, although, in this film, apparently everybody else in the world speaks a common language, which seems rather odd.
The film starts to lose me when the characters walk over a snow-covered mountain range to find themselves in a rainforest, and then only a few minutes later, in a desert. I’m not certain, but it seems unlikely to have those three climes so close together. Even so, the environment is used to good advantage throughout the film, and they manage to make even the desert look pretty, in a desolate sort of way.
The film loses me even more, though, as it plunges into a series of strange semi-spiritual “spirit-guide” sort of side sequences, which seem to me not to add anything to the film but to allow them to hack together a happy ending. It all seems rather unnecessary, and did a great job of keeping me distracted from the main plot.
That aside, though, the film rapidly degenerates into a slag heap of sentimentality, clichés, and overwrought action sequences. About halfway through, it seems that the creative members of the writing staff went home, and from then on, 10,000 BC follows the standard cookie-cutter action movie plot almost to the letter. Also, there were some sequences that looked to be copied right out of 300. Now, it’s possible to copy from or pay homage to a film without looking pathetic, but that’s not the case here. Here, it feels more like sycophantic desperation to soak up some of 300‘s impressive success.
In the end, though, it’s not a bad movie. The various tribes feel authentic enough, and the casting and writing were done competently enough that they really feel like different cultures with different traditions. The landscapes are pretty and, in general, it certainly feels like prehistory, which is fairly impressive, considering the difficulty of making a movie about a period with no historical record on which to base the plot. Perhaps, in light of this, some of the historical inaccuracies can be forgiven (unless, that is, you’re a hardened and obsessive science nerd, like me). The plot’s not much to speak of; it’s basically standard adventure movie canon, with some interesting extra bits tacked on. But still, you have to admire the filmmakers for being bold enough to build a film around such an innovative historical setting, even if the story does fall flat in the telling.
* * * * * * ~ ~ ~ ~ (6/10 asterisks)