10,000 BC

Published: .
Updated: .

David Swindle
Grade: D-

When a film is delivered to a theatre it comes not on one single reel but actually on several. It's then up to the projectionist to "build up" the film by splicing these sections of the film into one long, complete movie that rests on what's called a platter.

Then someone actually has to sit and watch the whole movie to make sure the print is OK and all the reels are in the right order. In the movie theatre world this usually takes place late Thursday night before the movie opens Friday.

Sometimes just the projectionist watches the movie but in most cases some of the theatre's managers and many employees do as well. (Having worked at theatres for years in high school and college I have very fond memories of all this.) It's one of the perks of working at a movie theatre and it also helps to have the employees actually familiar with the films in case customers have questions.

I bring this up because it's this specific screening here that is absolutely ideal for movies like "10,000 BC." It's two or three in the morning, you're sitting all alone with your friends, and you can laugh at and ridicule the movie if that's what it takes to survive and, if you're lucky, enjoy it.

I couldn't do that with "10,000 BC." I had to suppress my laughter as much as possible and only whisper my wisecracks to my fiancée. This was the biggest surprise of "10,000 BC." Very rarely do I experience the "so bad it's good" phenomenon. Almost never do I laugh at a movie because it's unintentionally funny and silly. That happened all throughout "10,000 BC," though.

The film tells the rise of a hero in prehistoric times. D'leh (Steven Strait) is a young member of a hunter/gatherer tribe living in an undisclosed location. Just where in the world this story takes place is a question that will assault any rational viewer for the film's entire 109 minutes. D'leh struggles in his tribe and faces ridicule from his peers since his father abandoned the community a decade ago for unknown reasons.

Life has gotten more difficult for D'leh's people. The primary source of their food is the wooly mammoths that they hunt which are coming later and later. (The film's mammoth hunting sequence is its best part. If director Roland Emmerich can do anything then I suppose it's CGI-enhanced action scenes.) The land is also snowy and cold.

The conflict in the film begins when the mammoth hunting tribe is attacked by "four-legged demons" (guess what those are) who capture many people, including Evolet (Camilla Belle,) a girl loved by D'leh. So, with the aid of a few other hunters from the tribe, D'leh pursues the kidnappers.

Over the course of several days, perhaps a week at most, the hunters travel through the cold mountains until they catch up with their captured people in a steaming rainforest. It's here that they're attacked by a flock of giant, ostrich-like, man-eating birds. This foils the rescue, allowing the men and their prisoners to flee.

D'leh and his mentor Tic'Tic (Cliff Curtis) continue their pursuit, now entering kind of a Savannah terrain where they encounter a saber-tooth tiger and African tribes. It's here that they discover that their people have been captured so they can be taken to be sold as slaves to a civilization of "gods" that use them to build pyramids. D'leh then leads several different African tribes to attack these alleged gods and rescue their people. From the very beginning all of this is wrapped in primitive mysticism and various prophecies.

It's just all so dumb. The biggest problem is that it's completely impossible to get into the characters or the story when the acting is so corny and the dialogue unintentionally induces bursts of laughter. There's this one scene where D'leh sits with Evolet and points up to a star in the sky and says that she is like that star and will always be in his heart. It was almost stunning in its silliness. I hope the makers of "Meet the Spartans" and "Epic Movie" make fun of this scene in particular when they no doubt feature the film in their next parody movie. (Probably due out January 2009 I'd bet.)

So when the movie just doesn't work at all, when the characters and story are complete failure, your mind inevitably drifts toward other things. It's for this reason that cries of inaccuracies, plot holes, "that could never happen!," etc. are so much more frequent in bad movies. They're just more noticeable and less forgivable. If an action movie is good then we're less likely to care if unbelievable things are happening. We're more likely to forgive plot holes since the film is at least doing the service of entertaining us. Who cares if a film breaks a few rules if it's still good?

"10,000 BC" has been heavily criticized for its historical inaccuracies. At that time people were actually just beginning to develop agriculture. The film depicts the domestication of horses, and, much more shockingly, of wooly mammoths. People also have metal tools and ships with sails. Most way out there is the depiction of the building of pyramids and large civilizations.

If the film actually explored a little bit more intelligently what it only hinted at then there might not be so much confusion. Those familiar with Emmerich's earlier - and much better - film "Stargate" know of the director's interest in Egypt and alternative theories of the origins of civilization. Whereas in "Stargate" he suggested aliens built the pyramids, here he points the finger toward Atlantis. The film would have been so much more interesting had he explored this subject more instead of just letting it simmer in the background.

More troubling than these historical inaccuracies (which really aren't that bad when put into the context of the alternative history, Atlantis stuff) is just the nonsensical, confusing nature of the film. The whole time I was plagued by the question of just where the story was taking place. The initial setting suggested North America. D'Leh and his people seemed kind of Native American-esque and I knew there were mammoths in North America. Then all of a sudden white guys show up on horses. Within a few days they're out of the snowy mountains and in a rainforest with these bird creatures. So I'm thinking that maybe they're in South America. A few days later all of sudden these African tribes show up and they're in the Savannah. Then it looks like they're in Egypt. There's a river that looks like the Nile and the desert looks like the Sahara. The "god's" culture then looks semi-Egyptian. But did they have mammoths in Egypt? And all these cultures are within days, weeks at the most of each other? And D'Leh's people just choose to stay and starve in the mountains when there's rainforest and neighboring communities so nearby? It's all just so totally brainless, as though it were made by 12-year-olds.

So while the late night theatre employees screening might not be an option for most viewers, if you're going to see "10,000 BC" do try and make it at perhaps an obscure dollar theatre showing and maybe you'll be lucky enough to have the place to yourself so you can really have a good time.