Thursday, June 26, 2008

10,000 BC

Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Steven Straight, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis, Joel Virgel, Affif Ben Badra, Mo Zinal, Nathanael Baring

Running Time: 109 min.

Rating: PG-13

* (out of ****)

A lot of people ask me why I’m so down on computer generated effects in movies. I’m not, I just prefer that the effects fit well within the context of the story, and more importantly, they look at least somewhat believable. Now, I won’t even waste my time answering. I’ll just refer them to 10,000 BC, which features some of the cheesiest effects you could possibly see in a film.

Anyone who thinks we’ve come far in movie technology may want to re-think that after the final credits role in Roland Emmerich’s latest misfire. We actually have come far, but unfortunately we’ve gone much farther in abusing those advances as a result. And just when I thought I couldn’t be more devastated over the recent passing of special effects wizard Stan Winston, something like this comes around and reminds us just how great he really was. Jurassic Park this is not. It isn’t even The Lost World.

What’s scarier though is that the effects are the least of this movie’s problems. It’s easily a career worst effort from Emmerich, quite an accomplishment considering this is the man who directed such bloated trash as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. You could defend him and say that he deliberately set out to make a gloriously bad, campy B-movie (which would at least explain the laughable performances and aimless direction), but if he did, shouldn’t it be a lot more fun?

It has a few lively moments, but in trying to make an “epic” action adventure film, Emmerich succeeds only in making it feel epic in length, despite it clocking in at just 109 minutes. Laughing at the performances and effects grows old after about 15 of those. The rest is a just a wretched bore you hope will eventually come to an end. It’s proves true the theory that the months of January and February really are the dumping ground for lackluster releases. Now that they’re all hitting DVD at once, I’m having a pretty miserable couple of months.

At a time when CGI, I mean wooly mammoths, roamed the Earth a cliché filled voice-over narration from Omar Sharif informs us D’ Leh (Steven Strait) and Evolet (Camilla Belle) have been in love since childhood. However, they’re from different tribes and politics stand in the way of them being together. D’ Leh is also an outcast and somewhat of a coward whose father abandoned his tribe. When evil warriors arrive and capture his people D’Leh manages to escape but Evolet doesn’t. So begins his torturous journey to rescue her and free his tribe. Torturous for us, not him. In one particularly embarrassing scene, we must watch him attempt to engage in a sabertooth tiger in deep, intelligent conversation. He seems disappointed when he fails to get a response.

In another memorable moment he listens to the ramblings of some prophet, who is either deformed or inhuman I couldn’t tell which. Strangely, someone is actually able to translate what this creature-man is saying even though he really isn’t speaking in another language. He’s just mumbling incoherently. By the time the film gets to the predictable denouement I was so exhausted by all the talking and time wasting that I forgot what the purpose of the journey was to begin with.

Anyone who just wants to see this movie because of Camilla Belle, hoping that this role would do for her what it did for Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC will be sorely disappointed. That movie was at least bad in a fun way, and despite some early ribbing, became an iconic part for its star actress. In this, Belle, looks grungy and dirty most of the picture and more like a contestant on Survivor than a prehistoric cave dweller. Perhaps the funniest scene of the movie is when she cleans up later. I had no idea they had eye shadow or mascara back then because all of the sudden, by the last half hour, she looks like she’s ready for a Vogue photo spread.

Her performance does her no favors but she’s at least ten times better than her leading man, Steven Straight, who according to his credits is an aspiring musician and former Hollister model. That seems about right. He has this dumb, wide-eyed expression on his face, as if he’s wondering how he possibly got into this. So am I. He gets a lot of giggles with some of his line deliveries, especially while conversing with computer-generated animals. The only inspired performance in the film comes from Affif Ben Badra as Evolet's obsessed, psychotic capturer. He's at least effectively creepy.

Everything in 10,000 BC is inauthentic looking, from the costumes, to the make-up to the effects. If decades from now they ever decide to bring back Mystery Science Theater 3000 this disaster would make an excellent viewing selection for Crow and Tom Servo. It’s as historically inaccurate as can be but you don’t go into a big budget action spectacle like this expecting a history lesson, nor did I want one. But I do expect to at least be reasonably entertained and ask that I’m able to remain awake.

The only thing this really has going for it is that at least doesn’t look like it was phoned in. It probably took a lot of money and effort to make this look as bad as it does. Everyone does at least seem to be trying, except they’re trying to give us something completely misguided and awful. As much as movies like this deflate me, I’ll admit one good thing came of this experience. It was the trailer for The Dark Knight that preceded the feature. Packed into those two minutes were far more thrills and story than 10,000 BC could muster in its entire running length.


JD said...

I was surprised you would even watch this one.
It was really bad. I mean really bad. Great review as always!!

Fred [The Wolf] said...

Since MySpace is being a bitch and I can't comment on there, I'll do it here. I saw this film on a bootleg DVD and thought it sucked then. I figured that maybe the quality of the bootleg made the film seem worse to me. I guess that isn't the case. Pretty much a bomb at the box office and a waste of talent. Give me the original over this piece of crap any day of the week. Great review.