Warner Bros. // 2008 // 107 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // June 24th, 2008
"Only time can teach us what is truth and what is legend."
Roland Emmerich has come up with a few hits -- Independence Day took in more than $300 million, while his The Day After Tomorrow racked up $186 million.
With 10,000 B.C., however, his box-office streak has started to slow down. The movie took in less than $100 million domestically and comes to DVD with less recognition than his previous hits.
Has Emmerich lost his touch, or is the more modest take simply a side effect of the incredible sinking economy?
"You will never be alone, Evolet." Those words seal a friendship between D'Leh (Steven Strait, Sky High), the son of a coward, and Evolet (Camille Belle, The Patriot), the girl with the blue eyes.
Problem is, when D'Leh gets older, he has to kill a mannak (mammoth) to show his bravery, claim the white spear, and claim his bride. He does, but only by accident, since his hand got caught in the net the mannak is dragging along behind him.
D'Leh gives up the spear, but he gets a second chance -- one he doesn't want -- when "four-legged demons" cart off Evolet and other members of the Yagahl tribe.
Back in the old days, a prehistoric tale like 10,000 B.C. would have been done with stop-motion. Today, the sabertooth tiger, mammoths, and other creatures are rendered in CGI. Whatever the method, 10,000 B.C. creates a new world that Ray Harryhausen would have loved, full of lush forests and tall grasses, snowy mountains, and sandy plains.
The story is the stuff of legend, or at least director (and producer and writer) Roland Emmerich wants you to think so. Narration by Omar Sharif (Doctor Zhivago) takes on a mystic quality, with hints of prophecy. Sharif gives it a reading that you could imagine hearing by an open fire (and that fire is seen in the alternate scenes). He's used way too much, though, and his legend has too many characters to keep track of without a scorecard, while the battle with the elements shown is simple and basic.
Emmerich's most interesting creative choice was to have the Yagahl tribe speaking English, while the characters they meet speak it as a second language -- or not at all. It makes the others -- heroic or evil -- seem more mysterious and dangerous and creates some question around the identity of those "four-legged demons." It also makes viewers identify with the Yagahl tribe and see the story through the characters' eyes.
Early on, as D'Leh makes his journey and does battle with his world -- dragged along by a mammoth, chased by huge flightless birds, and nearly gored by spikes in a pit -- it's easier to get into the story than it would have been in the stop-motion era. I felt the challenge of everyday life in prehistory, and it seemed fresher than your typical adventure film. However, after 10,000 B.C. reveals the demons' true identity, the movie becomes a typical action picture, with the epic battle you've come to expect.
With lots of shots of D'Leh and his friends against the formidable landscape, the movie has an epic look to it. The sound had slight glitches, with lines lost here and there. There's a full-frame version of 10,000 B.C. on the reverse side; I spot-checked it with fast-forward and skip buttons and didn't see any real travesties there, but you'll probably want to see it in the original form.
The extras include an alternate ending, which puts the storyteller front and center, with alternate scenes creating slightly different versions of situations in the movie. The movie lacks a commentary; I suspect it would have told me that Roland Emmerich is an admirer of Ray Harryhausen's work, though.
At the end, there are ten minutes of credits. Couldn't something have been done to move these along?
As I watched 10,000 B.C., I found it beautiful and reasonably convincing for a prehistoric epic, but some things -- the narration and the ending -- slowed it down. The economy might have taken its toll on the box office, but as action flicks go, the movie isn't as memorable as Independence Day, mainly because it fizzles out in the end.
If you love movies like The Lost World or King Kong, you might want to own it, but for most, 10,000 B.C. will only be worth a rental.
Not guilty. It's not legendary, either, though.
Review content copyright © 2008 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Alternate Ending
* Additional Scenes