dir: Roland Emmerich
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The name Roland Emmerich, for most people, isn’t one that drips with infamy. It’s not used in the same sentence as “a horrible, big budget hack as bad as Stephen Sommers, Bret Rattner or Michael Bay”. It probably should, though.
Clearly, if the name means nothing to you, you don’t remember who directed noisy big budget shitfests like Independence Day, Godzilla, Day After Tomorrow or the loathsome The Patriot starring Mel “I love the Jews today, I really do” Gibson.
As such, it’s not clear whether Emmerich has made any films ever worth the celluloid expended in making and screening them. There are some terrible films on his resume. Awful, godawful movies that sapped the will to live of audiences worldwide.
It would be reasonable to expect that since almost every film he’s made has been dire, that any future films he makes will be dire too. It’s only fair.
Well, of all the films Roland Emmerich has been responsible, this one, 10,000 BC is the most recent. That’s probably the nicest thing you can say about it.
In all honestly, this is the first flick from this hack that I didn’t completely hate. It's as bad as everything else he's ever done, but I didn't mind as much. Maybe I was in a good mood. Maybe the sillier, cheesier elements struck me as funny whereas in a more critical frame of mind, I would have ripped the shit out of them.
Maybe, I dunno, the fact that it is a childish adventure with only a tangential relationship with human, Earth, history didn’t really bug me as much as it bugged a lot of other people. For my money, really, this is like a Disney channel version of Apocalypto.
I liked Apocalypto a lot. I loved this sense of a truly alien culture that existed not five hundred years ago. I especially enjoyed the manner in which Gibson, lover of Jews that he is, successfully managed to bring aspects of the Mayan culture to life as well as put it together and structure it as a violent, brutal adventure that had my adrenalin pumping.
10,000 BC was clearly trying to tap into that savage primitives/cultures trope, but with a Rachel Welch, dreadlocks and people-speaking-like-retards kind of post-caveman thing, mishmashing in as much history as Emmerich could remember. None of this happened in or around 12,000 years ago, or in fact at any time in this planet’s history.
But so what? Who in the name of all that is unholy expected or even wanted a fucking history lesson from a big budget Hollywood film? You want Hollywood studio executives teaching you about anthropology, civilisation and anything else of any importance? If so, can you send me your bank account details, because I have millions of dollars I need to get out of Nigeria, and with your help, we can both benefit in the long run.
Bitching about this flick being historically inaccurate is like watching a puppet show and complaining that the lead and support roles are performed by puppets. Or that The Muppet Show has muppets in it.
Nothing I’ve said or am going to say should even for a moment be construed as saying that this is a good movie. It’s not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination: mine, yours or anyone else’s. It’s an average flick by any reckoning that delivers exactly the kinds of silly entertainment that it promises.
And thus I enjoyed it for its every cheesy, laughable, crassly clunky moment.
A group of people with dreadlocks, animal skins for clothing and body paint live on a mountain. Seems like a stupid place to live if you want shelter from the elements, but what do I know. They speak English, but with hesitant, halting cadences, as if they’ve only been living on an English-speaking mountain for a few years. In reality, I think it’s because their first language is Klingon. My apologies to my readers who aren’t geeky enough to know what a Klingon is, but suffice it to say that the makers of this film conjecture, essentially, that humans 12,000 years ago were pretty much like Klingons.
They hunt the woolly mammoth for food and honour, but the mammoth haven’t been biting lately. Their crazy witch doctor wise woman tells them that this next hunt will be the last. Who knows what crazy adventures will ensue?
D’leh (Steve Strait), whose name is pronounced “delay”, is a hot young Klingon whose father left the tribe in disgrace. He overcompensates by brooding and developing worrying facial hair. His father surrogate, whose name, as far as I could tell, was either Dick Dick or Tuk Tuk, carries the White Spear and is played by Cliff Curtis.
I would like, from now on until the end of time, to refer to Cliff Curtis always as the Inestimable Cliff Curtis. I LOVE Cliff Curtis, I honestly do. There is no sarcasm in what I am writing. He can, and does, play virtually anything Hollywood will give him. He played a murderous Latino gangster in Training Day, an Iraqi freedom fighter in Three Kings, THE Pablo fucking Escobar in Blow, a sympathetic but distant Maori father in the superb Whale Rider and ship’s counsellor on Sunshine. I am convinced there is not a single role he can’t play. Try him out. Give him the role as Rose in a Titanic sequel and I bet he does at least as good a job as Kate Winslet. He could play anything from the life story of Tiny Tim, Ike Eisenhower to Margaret Thatcher, for crying out loud.
I will immediately give any film that stars Cliff Curtis in a lead role far more credit than the film deserves. He is as awesome as usual in this disposable flick as the tribe’s leader, and probably delivers the only decent performance for its interminable length.
Even if he looks as silly as everyone else does.
When D’leh, who was hoping to score big in the mammoth hunt in order to be able to score big with the blue-eyed girl of his dreams Evolet (Camille Bell), sulks over on another side of the mountain, a rampaging horde of evil Arab guys on horses climb up the mountain, kill a bunch of people, and haul many of the tribe off as slaves.
D’leh and a few of the remaining tribesmen then endeavour to create the first quest in human history, thus making Joseph Campbell turn in his grave. Who is Joseph Campbell? He’s the brilliant, loathsome man responsible for codifying the whole myth and ‘quest’ concept in order to allow Hollywood to rape and pillage the world’s stories and the audiences’ wallets by structuring the same goddamn stories again and again in ways meant to resonate with us, the great unwashed, on the collective unconscious level.
If you could resurrect Joseph Campbell, dead these last twenty or so years, and show him 10,000 BC, he’d tell you that the story plays out exactly like some pathetic screenwriter was literally reading Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces. Campbell would get to the end of the flick, sigh, then find the nearest sharp object and kill himself with it.
D’Leh and Tuk tuk (and others) track the slavers through some long grass. Giant birds start killing people. D’Leh almost gets Evolet, and then loses her again, no thanks to the evil giant birds. He doesn’t realise there’s still an hour of screen time to go.
At least they weren’t Raptors or T-Rexs, I guess. The CGI is really less than impressive throughout, but especially when it comes to the creatures rendered, be they birds, woolly mammoths or tigers, oh my. D’Leh manages to spark up a strange relationship with a gigantic sabre tooth tiger, which, surprisingly, pays off down the track because, wouldn’t you know it, it’s all part of a prophecy in which D’Leh has a starring role. There’s even a rock with a rock painting on it, Lascaux Caves-style, where D’Leh and the magical sabre tooth are, I dunno, eating, having sex, something very much like it.
Eventually, after entering into United Nations-like coalitions with what look like tribes of Masai, Zulu and Bushmen of the Kalahari, D’Leh keeps missing the slavers and his people by scant minutes, and is forced to keep pursuing them in the hopes that he’ll grow as a person and learn essential truths about leadership and loincloths along the way before the closing minutes of the film.
Building, always building, this film is. Building up incredulity and jaw-dropping silliness as we get to, yes, this is what you’ve been waiting for, a city district filled with mammoths and slaves building pyramids for some strange dudes who think they’re gods. They call their leader the Almighty, which seems a bit rich, and they, according to rumours, are either from Atlantis or the stars or both.
The ending of such a film requires people to be killed, established evil orders to be overthrown, slaves to be freed, some stuff to burn or blow up, last minute, last second saves and villains who you thought were dead coming back in order to be killed again. The ending, which I will admit I was watching with a jaw dropped lower than jaws of anything apart from pythons should be able to drop, delivers each and every cliché element you have ever seen and will ever see again.
It’s hard to fault this flick, it is really is. It doesn’t even vaguely pretend to be credible or realistic or to be conforming to any element of earth history apart from looking like what a person who knows little about history could think it might have looked like way back when. The fact that everything in this film seems like it was put there just to make the heads of people who know a little about the history of human civilisation explode shouldn’t be taken as a slap in the face. It couldn’t have been their plan, could it?
Look, this is Epic Film Making without the Epic storytelling ability, scope or the imagination of the kinds of epics that would have made Cecil B De Mille wet his pants with joy. It doesn’t even pretend to be able to do that kind of thing on anything apart from the “we can make shit look really big and impressive with CGI, and, uh, that’s about it” level. But it is a vaguely entertaining adventure, and I like me some adventures in times of yore, I really do.
As such, sure, it’s not Ben Hur or Spartacus, but it’s not Jackson’s King Kong either, which is the new benchmark for bloated big budget boredom. 10,000 BC is over in just over 90 minutes (with eleven minutes of goddamn credits!), and, though it doesn’t have a single intelligent idea in its pretty but completely vacant head, is fun enough to while away the time. Honestly, I enjoyed it and found it entertaining, but that could be out of perversity. I imagine it would be even more entertaining whilst drunk, though I’ll have to wait a while to test that theory out.
There’s nothing stopping you from trying that theory out for me, though.
10,000 BC. Come for the hilarity, stay for the drunkenness
5 times a girl like Camille Bell in the world’s first push-up bra doesn’t really make a decent substitute for Raquel Welch in 1 Million Years BC out of 10. No, it does not.
“You must remember me. I gave you life.” – a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh, 10,000 BC