Who would have thought that even in prehistoric times – long before the onslaught of sailing ships from Europe – it would take a hunky white boy with dreadlocks to come to the rescue of beleaguered black Africans? I guess that’s history – Hollywood style.
It’s perhaps a little unfair on 10,000 B.C. the new film by blockbuster king Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, Independence Day), but with so little substance on offer, politically incorrect subtext is all that’s left to work with.
10,000 B.C. is the tale of D’Leh (model turned actor Steven Strait); a young and rather gorgeous mammoth hunter, who, it is prophesied (courtesy of a tiresome Omar Shariff voiceover), will save his people and lead them into to a new era.
Of course there’s also a girl, Evolet (Camilla Belle), who must be saved at any cost. Despite both leads being pretty, neither have any palpable sex appeal or chemistry.
Along the way D’Leh gets to battle all manner of ancient and extinct beasties, unites a variety of noble African tribes, ends slavery, battles the nasty hook-nosed Arabs and single-handedly brings down one of the pyramids. And, he gets the girl. (Did you have any doubt?)
George Lucas successfully explored the mythical hero’s journey in the first Star Wars movie way back in 1977, but enough already! In 2008 we’ve heard it all before; it seems that our cinemas of late have been invaded by heroes at the centre of world-changing events, all foretold by a wise man, shaman, mystical book or other such corny device.
A tongue-in-cheek approach, a little humour or perhaps some ironic self-awareness may have gone a long way towards saving 10,000 B.C. Instead, it’s all very serious, pompous and self-important in its attempt to be a moving epic, which it isn’t.
When it comes to the plot or characters, Emmerich (who co-wrote the script) doesn’t make any effort to ensure that his film stands out from the Hollywood standard. He clearly hopes that the prehistoric setting, including herds of woolly mammoths and snarling sabre-tooth tigers, will do the job for him. And they do succeed to some extent – but only as long as they are on-screen.
As soon as a chase scene comes to an end, or a battle is won, we’re faced with excuses for characters desperately trying to make us care for them. Sadly, they are anorexic archetypes and little else; the result is a film consisting of stretches of boredom interspersed with occasional frenetic action sequences.
You’ll probably have a good time if you grab a very large box of popcorn and check your expectations and brain at the door; as the many thousands of filmgoers who’ve already made the movie a financial success around the word have clearly done. Despite this, 10,000 B.C. is a paint-by-numbers effort that painfully illustrates why the film industry is facing ever-shrinking audiences.