Some critics have moaned that as film technology grows, the storytelling ability of the movies shrinks. I have never quite agreed with this assessment, as I believe there is a place for spectacle of any variety, even the mindless kind. However, to those who share the view of those critics, 10,000 B.C. will most likely be the most convincing piece of evidence to their argument. Here is a movie that looks like it cost millions to make, but is saddled with a screenplay that looks like it came from the Dollar Store.
Director and co-writer, Roland Emmerich is no stranger to brainless spectacles. This is the guy who brought us Independence Day and 1998's Hollywood take on Godzilla, after all. There's a very fine line between brainless and just plain brain dead, unfortunately. 10,000 B.C. is short on spectacle, short on plot, and short on just about anything that people go to the movies for. There are characters and a love story to drive the bare bones plot, but this seems to be added in as an afterthought. I got the impression that Emmerich and fellow screenwriter, Harald Kloser (a film score composer making his first screenplay credit), had the idea for a couple cool scenes, then tried to add a bunch of filler material between them. They threw in some sketchy characters that hardly reach two dimensions to inhabit this filler, and called it a screenplay. In order for spectacle to work, even the cheese-filled variety such as this, there has to be something for the audience to get excited about. This movie is just one big tease.
The plot, if it can even be called that, is set in the days of early man. The heroes are an unnamed tribal people who speak perfect English, all have the bodies of supermodels, and hunt mammoths for food. The two characters we're supposed to be focused on are a pair of young lovers named D'Leh (Steven Strait) and Evolet (Camilla Belle). Why they are in love, and why we should care about them, the movie never goes out of its way to explain. The rest of the villagers do not really matter. They exist simply to be captured when a group of foreign invaders come riding into their peaceful tribe, and kidnap most of them to work as slaves back in their own home colony. Evolet is one of the captured, so D'Leh and a small handful of others set out to find where they've been taken to, and to seek the aid of other tribes that have also been invaded by this enemy. There's a mammoth herd here, a saber tooth tiger there, but they have nothing to do with anything. They're just computer generated special effects who are there simply because the filmmakers felt the current scene needed a special effect shot. I'd be more impressed if the effects didn't look so out of place with the actors most of the time.
10,000 B.C. probably would have worked better as a silent movie, or a subtitled one, as most of the dialogue that comes out of the mouths of these people are as wooden as the spears they carry. The good tribes are the only people in this movie who have mastered the Queen's English, naturally. The evil invading tribe speak in subtitles, and sometimes have their voices mechanically altered and lowered, so that they sound more threatening and demonic. No one in this movie is allowed to have a personality, or act differently from one another. Everybody in each tribe talks, thinks, and behaves exactly the same, with facial hair and differing body types being the main way to tell them apart. This would make it hard to get involved in the story, but the movie dodges this tricky issue by not even having a story in the first place. Once the film's main tribe is attacked, the movie turns into an endless string of filler material and padding to drag the whole thing out to feature length. Aside from a brief encounter with some bird-like prehistoric creatures, there are no moments of action or danger until D'Leh and his followers reach the land of the invading army. The movie throws a saber tooth tiger encounter to fool us into thinking something's gonna happen, but the tiger winds up being just as boring as the human characters inhabiting the movie, and is just millions in special effects budget wasted on something that didn't need to be there in the first place, other than to move the shaky plot along.
There is a key ingredient missing in 10,000 B.C., and that is fun. This movie is not fun to watch at all. I kept on waiting for something, anything, to happen. When something eventually did happen, it was usually underwhelming. I know of people who are interested in seeing this movie, because of the special effects, or because they think it looks enjoyably cheesy. To those people, I say please do not be drawn in by curiosity. This isn't even enjoyable in a bad sense. Your precious time is worth more than what any theater may be charging to see this movie. For anyone wondering, yes, that includes the budget cinema and the price of a rental.