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10,000 BC (2008)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 6/24/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/23/2008

If you think about the most successful directors of the past 15 years, one name which may not immediately come to mind is Roland Emmerich, but he should be there. Emmerich, of course, made his name with 1996's Independence Day, and all of his films since 1994's Stargate have managed to eek out a profit. (While researching this, I was surprised to see that The Day After Tomorrow was such a hit. Really?) Despite this box-office success, Emmerich's talents as a director are suspect, and he's never been able to make a completely fulfilling movie. Will his latest effort, 10,000 BC, change that streak, or continue a career of mediocrity?

10,000 BC is set sometime in the ancient past (I'll have to take their word for it on the whole "10,000 BC" thing) in an unnamed land. Here, the Yaghal people find a crude existence in rocky terrain which is often covered in snow. They are a very spiritual people who are lead by the Old Mother (Mona Hammond), and each generation chooses a lead hunter who carries the "White Spear". When a child with blue eyes is found, Old Mother claims that a prophecy has been set into motion which will change their people. Years later, this child grows to be Evolet (Camilla Belle), who is loved by D'Leh (Steven Strait), a young hunter. When a group of marauders invade the village, they kill some of the men, enslave most of the others, and kidnap Evolet. D'Leh witnesses this from afar and he and Tic Tic (Cliff Curtis), a hunter who was left for dead, track the group in order to get their people back. This takes them on a journey farther from home than any of the Yaghal have ever traveled. They will encounter other tribes, strange animals, and the birthplace of one of history's greatest dynasties.

There are two things which have always bothered me about Roland Emmerich's films. One can be found in 10,000 BC, while the other doesn't really come into play. First of all, if you look at the movies that he's made in the last 15 years, few of them are very original. Independence Day was a carbon copy of War of the Worlds (especially the finale). The Day After Tomorrow owes a great deal to Irwin Allen's disaster movies. Godzilla was meant to be an American version of...well, Godzilla, but it turned into a remake of Jurassic Park. Emmerich runs into similar problems with 10,000 BC. After films like Conan the Barbarian, The Beastmaster, Apocalypto, and Pathfinder, how many times do I have to sit through the "bad men from somewhere else ransack our village and take prisoners" scene? This idea is incredibly hackneyed and only a novice filmgoer won't see it as a tired jumping off point for the story. Following this, the ideas in 10,000 BC don't get any fresher. D'Leh travels the countryside, meeting other tribesmen, fighting animals, and staging a rescue. You will feel that you've seen it all before. (Adding insult to injury, you'll feel as if you've seen it all before in a Roland Emmerich film, as much of the finale made me think of Stargate.)

My other issue with Emmerich's films is that they often have an exciting beginning and ending, but he never seems to know what to do with the middle of the movie. Stargate and Independence Day are especially guilty of this. (The middle of Stargate becomes a National Geographic special.) Someone must have pointed this out to Emmerich, as 10,000 BC doesn't suffer from this issue. Set-pieces are spaced out rather evenly, and at 109 minutes, the movie is somewhat short by Emmerich's standards. For once, one of the more interesting scenes takes place in the middle of the movie.

One area where Emmerich's films typically don't disappoint are the special effects. (When you think of Independence Day, you don't think of the bland characters or bad dialogue, you think of the White House explosion.) However, the first few minutes of 10,000 BC have some effects which are so jaw-droppingly bad that they took me right out of the movie. The green-screen work makes the movie look like 300's neglected sibling, and there are shots of the hunters running against a fake background that made me think of Land of the Lost. Fortunately, things pick up after this, and the only other miscue comes in a scene with the sabre-toothed tiger, where A) the scale is off so that the tiger looks far too big, and B) the tiger looks as if he wandered in from a PlayStation 2 game.

Given all of this, 10,000 BC is a decidedly average movie. The story isn't original, the special effects are questionable, and I'm fairly certain that the movie is historically inaccurate. (Did the Egyptians use wooly mammoths? Who are we to say?) But, I've seen far worse movies. Despite the fact that most of the characters look like bass player for a funk-metal band, I was curious to see how the movie would end and things do pick up in the last third of the film. The landscape shots are gorgeous and, again, the movie never drags like some of Emmerich's other movies. Fans of action films set in the ancient past will probably find something to like in 10,000 BC, but don't set your expectations too high.

10,000 BC rewrites history on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The DVD contains both the fullscreen and widescreen versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear here, showing very little grain and no defects from the source material. The daytime landscape shots look great and the image has a nice amount of depth. These shots are never too bright and the action is always visible in the nighttime scenes. Close-ups show a lack of detail, but otherwise the transfer is solid. I must say that the one thing that I was expecting from this movie was good sound, and it delivers. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The charging wooly mammoths deliver wall-shaking subwoofer effects, as does the growling of the tiger. Action scenes bring very nice surround sound action with notable speaker separation. Overall, a very good technical display.

The 10,000 BC DVD contains only two extras. The "Alternate Ending" (3 minutes) introduces us to the film's narrator, while this is kept somewhat vague in the final cut. This ending contains some additional footage showing what happened to the characters. The DVD also contains 10 ADDITIONAL SCENES which run about 10 minutes in total. These scenes are all brief and only show incidental moments which were cut from the film.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long