Reviewer: Charity Bishop
Roland Emmerich has a style of movie
making that is very impressive. Even when I don't love the
project, it is usually pleasing to the eye and leaves me
with something to think about. 10,000 BC is his most recent
project and while it is not his best work, it is one of the
most unique and memorable.
Mammoths are a way of life for the people of the small village in the midst of the ancient wilds. They provide food, clothing, and opportunities for trade with neighboring tribes. But in recent years their presence has become more scarce and thus far more valuable. They are also extremely dangerous and almost impossible to kill except in massive hunting parties. D'Leh (Steven Strait) is far from the best huntsman among his people. He's also something of an outcast since his father abandoned him and the village many years before. But he does have the eye of the beautiful Evolet (Camilla Belle). But she is destined to be the wife of the best hunter among them... and it's not likely to be him. Until fortune changes and by sheer dumb luck, he manages to kill a mammoth all by himself, something that earns him the right to brandish the white spear and choose his bride. Too humble to accept the spear under false pretenses, he mourns that he will never marry Evolet...
The grandmother of the tribe has professed that four-legged demons will come into their midst and take away something precious. That very night, foreign tribesmen on horseback steal into the community and make off with what they can carry, including D'Leh's beloved Evolet, since her blue eyes are rare. Along with a handful of his friends, D'Leh sets out to save her and his trek through the wilds that lay over the mountains will take him to more dangerous places than he could have ever envisioned.
I am not a big fan of movies set in prehistoric times but this one is surprisingly good for the genre. It does ask you to suspend your belief on many occasions but is depicted as a sort of ancient grand adventure, complete with saber tooth tigers, wooly mammoths, and cavemen so ragged and filthy that you know they must smell even worse. What actually amazed me the most was that underneath ragged dreadlocks and a bucket full of dirt, Camilla Belle can still be outstandingly gorgeous -- maybe even more so due to Evolet's uniquely blue eyes. She isn't just a throwaway heroine either but has some spunk, which she needs as she carries her half of the story on with the tradesmen. The animation is flawless and the creatures look fairly realistic (although they seem to be about twice as big as history tells us they were). It is something of a sprawling epic so don't expect to see just wild lands... there is a towering city complete with an evil "god" and lots of sinister minions. If you can separate realism from this "fantasy" representation of an ancient culture, it might not disconcert you but still bears a word of caution.
It at times felt a little long but there is a lot of creativity involved and enough romantic tension and action to make it of interest to both genders. The confusion of religion is somewhat distracting but it also presents a very noble and moral set of ethic guidelines that implies that in order to survive, a civilization must be governed through forces of good rather than an interest in evil. Heroism is applauded and evil abhorred.
Veiled conversation implies that Evolet's captor intends to use her to fulfill his sexual desires but he is prevented from touching her on several occasions; another man appears as if he might rape her, but doesn't get the chance.
There is a tremendous amount of violence but most of it is relatively bloodless. Birds, beasts, and humans alike are stabbed with spears and shot with arrows. Slaves are mistreated. Giant birds kill and eat mortals (deaths are shown; carnage is not). I felt a bit sorry for the mammoth when it impaled itself on a spear, but he managed to squash a few unfortunate people along the way.
Mysticism is largely present in the plot, so much so that it really is the entire plot beyond the running, screaming, and fighting. From beginning to end, the emphasis is on prophecies -- Grandmother warns them of danger and appears to have a supernatural link to the warriors and particularly Evolet. The ancient civilization worships a swathed figure that is a "god" (the last remaining one of three) and sacrifices humans willingly for his own dark purposes. There is a prophecy that someone marked with the stars of a constellation will come to the city and destroy it. Evolet and D'Leh fulfill this prophecy. It is implied that one individual gives their last breath (of life) to another, so that the fatally wounded person can survive while an unharmed bystander dies.