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Woolly Mammoths, Pyramids, Eye Liner & Mascara

March 11, 2008
By Tony Rutherford
Although “10,000 B.C.” qualifies as a dinosaur themed flick (mammoths and saber tooth tigers), the creatures roam mostly as background decorations with only a few stampedes. Essentially, this film pits small, diverse tribes against Egyptian marauders masquerading as gods to kidnap others to slave over the construction of their pyramids. It’s more a less violent “300” than “Jurassic Park.”

 A pair of young lovers, D’Leh (Steven Strait) and Evolet (Camilla Belle), ties this adventure together. D’Leh, a mammoth hunter, awaits a historic deed that will allow him to be worthy of selecting Evolet as his woman. It’s also a time of crisis for the unnamed tribe — the mammoth are not roaring through the land like buffalo, placing the group in fear of eventual starvation.

Arriving from the desert is a band of Egyptian marauders who slay the resistors and enslave the remaining members for a grueling cross desert journey where they will join other slaves in building pyramids. Those scenes have the intricacy of crowned Biblical epics, particularly the up close and personal scenes of slaves, so-called gods and whip enforcers meticulously crafting another layer to the pyramid.

Though director Roland Emmerich has helmed acclaimed fantasy projects like “Independence Day” and “Day After Tomorrow,” with a re-make of “Fantastic Voyage,” on his slate, his current prehistoric epic more resembles a high budget sand and sandal adventure reminiscent of “Sinbad” or “Hercules.” Call this flag that the tykes might expect more creatures at war against man (or other creatures) than man bludgeoning each other.

That’s not to say there’s not an exceptional mammoth stampede and a teeth to nose saber tooth tiger encounter, but “10,000 B.C.” is about more of the dangers on the trek to free those kidnapped. And, during the journey, the small tribes learn how to cast away prejudices toward diversities in order to achieve mutual goals. 

A Prehistoric setting demands suspension of disbelief, which “10,000 B.C.” earns with a healthy mixture of CGI, romance, hand to hand combat and well placed leadership and sacrifice lessons. However, did the winches living 10,000 years before Jesus wear mascara? For that matter, were not most of the pyramids dated in the 2,000 B.C. range, so could woolly mammoths stand in for stallions at the construction site?

Aside from the running mascara (and I refuse to expose the spoiler scene), most of us accept this as “fictional” odyssey so nit picking historical data swindles smiles. But the bottom line rests on whether the movie brings suspense and entertainment with at least moderate character empathy. I can’t give a totally positive or negative answer. Most of our feelings rest on the romantic couple; most of the action arises from chasing the mammoths in scenes more like cowboys rounding up a bronco herd.

The people of this era relied upon “signs” for guidance. Ultimately, the script conjures a new one whenever convenient to move the plot to the next hurdle, whether it be the efforts of D’Leh’s dad who beforehand searched the same territories as potential settlements for his tribe or finding a “sign” in the sky or on a hand.

And, as the Egyptian ‘gods’ equated power with immortality and few words, “10,000” could have used more nonverbal or verbal distinctions to embody a wider spectrum of human emotions and personalities to separate one tribesman from another. CGI epic or not, Emmerich has brought us better.

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Steven Strait
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