Monday, March 17, 2008

Action-packed '10,000 B.C.' short on facts

**1/2 out of ****
Woolly mammoths helped build the pyramids, dinosaurs hid in jungles, saber-toothed tigers were the size of cars and humans spoke English 12,000 years ago? Do not expect to walk out of the theater with historic knowledge by watching the timeline-twisted "10,000 B.C." What you should expect is a historically inaccurate thrill ride of pre-historic creatures and tribes with plenty of action.

"10,000 B.C." is set among a secluded mountain tribe of mammoth hunters that has managed to find the miracle of 21st-century dental care. The simplistic plot focuses on the young, unwilling leader, D'Leh (Steven Strait), who finds his tribe attacked by a marauding group on horse back, capturing much of the tribe for slavery. During the raid, D'Leh's promised wife, Evolet (Camilla Belle), is one of the many abducted, prompting him to go save her and the others.

The perilous journey cuts through the stunning CGI-landscape of high-peaked, snowy mountains, predator-infested jungles and blistering deserts. As D'Leh fights through the conditions, he also must conquer the tyrannical empire and its leader by uniting fellow clans to rescue his people. The story smoothly flows with periodic narration by Omar Sharif.

Roland Emmerich, the man behind "Independence Day," "Godzilla," "The Patriot" and "The Day After Tomorrow" certainly doesn't know the meaning of small scale, and "10,000 B.C." is no exception. Co-writing the screenplay with the film's composer, Harald Kloser, Emmerich masterfully crafts the computer-created world of "10,000 B.C." Scenes of woolly mammoth stampedes, dinosaur attacks and gigantic pyramids make "B.C." easy to enjoy.

You cannot help but feel as if the film pulled a page from the '06 Mel Gibson film "Apocalypto" or the '60s Raquel Welch movie "One Million Years B.C." where the pyramids and dinosaurs are a better fit, respectively.

If only Emmerich cared as much about his actors than his CGI, "10,000 B.C." could have been better received by audiences. While the performances from the relatively unknown actors are surprisingly sturdy, more than a few scenes are laughable, but for all the wrong reasons.

Leading man Strait ("The Covenant") gives a solid performance as an outcast (his father abandoned the tribe when he was young) turned leader, though never exuberates much charisma in battle for a savior role. Belle, known for being the victim in the 2005 horror remake "When a Stranger Calls," plays the damsel dimly without much sense of distress.
The battles on top of the pyramids with charging wooly mammoths are the type of moments when "10,000 B.C." are at its peak. The other scenes are just idle until the next grand battle, which thankfully are only about five minutes away. Watchable and at times admirable, "10,000 B.C." is still visually fascinating and entertaining one that the whole family could enjoy. For fun and excitement, this is a point in history worthwhile to look back upon.

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