Friday, March 21, 2008

Alonso Duralde, film critic, speaks about the "10000 BC" movie

A young member of the tribe finds himself an outcast, even though a young female his age swears her eternal love. The outcast goes on a perilous quest and faces fearsome creatures. Eventually, he becomes the tribe’s savior, celebrated in song and story.

Yes, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” has become a holiday favorite that children and adults enjoy every Christmas. But that’s also the plot of “10,000 B.C.,” a lovely-to-look-at but ultimately forgettable adventure flick that feels like a cross between “Land of the Pharaohs” and the greatest hits of Joseph Campbell. (One character even talks about how legends have “many faces,” which feels like a direct shout-out to Campbell’s “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.”)

The Campbell version of mythology was the template for “Star Wars” and lots of subsequent movies, and “10,000 BC” follows the playbook, from the use of shamans and animal spirits to the hero temporarily rejecting his quest. And while the movie is never boring, at least, you’ll have forgotten most of it by the time you get out of the parking lot.

D’Leh (Steven Strait) is part of a tribe that hunts the woolly mammoths that annually stampede through the valley, but he is scorned by his young peers because his father is considered to be a coward who abandoned the tribe. But D’Leh proves himself to be a capable hunter, not least because his prowess will allow him to win the hand of Evolet (Camilla Belle), a blue-eyed girl whose people were wiped out by rampaging horsemen (whom she refers to as “four-legged demons”).

Naturally, those “four-legged demons” attack D’Leh’s tribe, carrying away with them almost all of the men, as well as Evolet, who has captured the eye of the lead marauder. D’Leh and a few other tribesmen follow the slave raiders through desert and rain forest, connecting with other peoples along the way who have lost loved ones to the baddies.

Turns out they’re all being taken to Egypt to be slave labor on the great pyramids. (“10,000 B.C.” contends that woolly mammoths were used to haul stones up and down the pyramids, which at first struck me as ridiculous. But apparently some research shows that the final mammoths were still alive at the time of the construction of the pyramids, so it’s not necessarily far-fetched.)

The mammoths and the sabre-toothed tiger and the monstrous ostrich creatures (monstriches?) our heroes encounter along the way wind up being the most memorable characters in the film. I’m generally not a fan of computer-generated imagery in contemporary movies, but the beasties all come off looking very realistic and integrated into the action. One can’t really say the same for the actors, who spend most of the movie running, yelling and throwing things.

Phil Villarreal, ex/Daily Star reporter, about the 10000 BC - 2.5 stars out of 4.

I can’t figure out exactly when the film “10,000 B.C.” is set, but it’s definitely ancient times. Like before they had cars, guns or tabloid blogs. And definitely before they had cohesive plots or dialogue that made sense.

But at least there were sabertooth tigers, mastadons and togas, and at least most of the people knew how to speak English, even if they did so with medieval Scottish accents. The tribes which were too dumb to have invented English yet speak their own crazy gibberish languages, but at least the filmmakers translated it with subtitles, so we could learn “Agllabogatttarangaba” means “Oh No! I’m being impaled by a sabertooth tiger’s saberteeth!” Which is really helpful.

The movie is directed by Roland Emmerich, who surely must have cheated in making his special effects by using actual footage from whatever time it was the movie was set. I’m onto you, Roland. No way your fancy computers and puppets can make mastadons look so real.

The beasts look more true-to-life than the people, in fact. And are mostly better actors. And have more interesting things to say. But oh well. Complaining about stupidity in an action movie is like whining about wild cherry flavoring in Wild Cherry Pepsi. You just accept it and roll with it, and even try to appreciate it a little.

Watch “10,000 B.C.” with the right mindset and you can appreciate it as a fairly effective comedy. As funny as “Juno,” even. The one way “10,000 B.C.” and “Juno” differ is a small story point. Instead of focusing on a wise-cracking teenager who’s looking for someone to adopt her baby, “10,000 B.C.” is about a caveman (Steven Strait) whose cavewoman (Camilla Belle) is kidnapped (i.e., adopted) by a traveling group of supercavemen who are looking for slaves to build their World Trade Centers.

The one thing these supercavemen weren’t counting on was that three people from a tribe they just marauded would track them down and topple their entire empire. If you look it up, I think you’ll discover similar oversights were made by the Roman Empire and the Giuliani campaign.

The funniest part of the movie involves a witch doctor lady who sits in Dhalsim’s Yoga Flame pose and channels the emotions, sights and sounds of the heroes’ journey, flipping out whenever they encounter an enemy or recite painful dialogue. Why she does this I’ll never know. Maybe because this was before the days of DVD back then and all they had was VHS, which were such a hassle because they’d wear out too easily and if you didn’t rewind the tapes before you brought them back to Blockbuster you’d get charged an extra dollar. Plus the picture quality sucked.

The picture quality in “10,000 B.C.” on the other hand, is excellent. Beautiful, even. The only problem is whenever it talks, you get really annoyed and want to cover your ears and scream for it to stop. Just like Nanny from that TV series “The Nanny.” The only real problem in the movie is they forgot to put dinosaurs in. But oh well. Overall the movie isn’t that bad for a bunch of cavemen, who were much stupider than all of us living today.

NY Tmies: "Human Civilization: The Prequel"

“Only time can teach us what is truth and what is legend.” This bit of fake-folk wisdom commences the voice-over narration of “10,000 BC,” and the more you think about it, the more preposterous it seems. If anything, time confuses the issue. But it’s best not to think too hard about anything in this sublimely dunderheaded excursion into human prehistory, directed by Roland Emmerich from a script he wrote with Harald Kloser, who also helped compose, using his better ear, the musical score.

Mr. Emmerich has made something of a specialty in staging — with maximal bombast and minimal coherence — end-of-the-world scenarios. (See “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow,” though not on the same day if you can help it.) In the context of his oeuvre “10,000 BC” might be thought of as a kind of prequel, an attempt to imagine human civilization not on the brink of its end, but somewhere near its beginning.

Yet even as the story begins, the old ways seem to be dying out, as the Yagahl, a tribe of snuffleupagus hunters who favor extensions in their hair and eschew contractions in their speech, prepare for their last hunt. In fulfillment of an old prophecy, raiders on horseback (“four-legged demons”) arrive to sack the Yagahl encampment and take a bunch of the tribespeople as slaves. Among them is the blue-eyed Evolet (Camilla Belle), whose beloved, D’Leh (Steven Strait), sets out with his mentor, Tic’Tic (Cliff Curtis), to rescue her.

Along the way D’Leh and Tic’Tic have many adventures, involving bizarrely costumed humans and computer-generated creatures, among them a scary race of flesh-eating swamp ostriches. These reminded me of nothing so much as the angry chicken, designed by the stop-action maestro Ray Harryhausen, that menaces some castaways in Cy Endfield’s 1961 curio “Mysterious Island.” And at its best — which may also be to say at its worst — “10,000 BC” feels like a throwback to an ancient, if not exactly prehistoric, style of filmmaking. The wooden acting, the bad dialogue, the extravagantly illogical special effects may well, in time, look pleasingly cheap and hokey, at which point the true entertainment value of the film will at last be realized.

Meanwhile back in the present, there is an awful lot of high-toned mumbo-jumbo to sit through. On his journey D’Leh (it’s pronounced “delay,” though most of the time he’s in a pretty big hurry) gathers a multicultural army to oppose the pyramid-building, slaveholding empire that has been bothering the more peaceful agrarian and hunter-gatherer tribes. These decadent priests seem like a curious hybrid of the Egyptians in “King of Egypt” and the Maya from “Apocalypto.” To reach them D’Leh travels overland from his home on the Siberian steppes through the jungles of Southeast Asia to the grasslands of Africa. But back then I guess it was all Gondwana, so the trip was easier.

Other movies D’Leh (or rather Mr. Emmerich) makes his way through include “The Searchers” and “Ice Age,” though nothing in “10,000 BC” approaches the poetry of the scrambling squirrel and his errant acorn in “Ice Age.” Still, it is a mercy that the tigers and the other creatures don’t talk. It would be more of a mercy if the human characters, especially that narrator, observed similar discretion.

But the big, climactic fight, complete with an epic snuffleupagus rampage, is decent action-movie fun. And as a history lesson, “10,000 BC” has its value. It explains just how we came to be the tolerant, peace-loving farmers we are today, and why the pyramids were never finished.

“10,000 B.C.” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). It has a lot of violence, none of it terribly grisly.

10,000 BC

Opens on Friday nationwide.

Directed by Roland Emmerich; written by Mr. Emmerich and Harald Kloser; director of photography, Ueli Steiger; edited by Alexander Berner; music by Mr. Kloser and Thomas Wander; production designer, Jean-Vincent Puzos; produced by Michael Wimer, Mr. Emmerich and Mark Gordon; released by Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes.

WITH: Camilla Belle (Evolet), Steven Strait (D’Leh) and Cliff Curtis (Tic’Tic).

TvGuide speaks about the 10000 BC

Roland Emmerich's big-budget throwback to prehistoric fantasies like ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. and PREHISTORIC WOMEN is too dumb to take seriously, but just silly enough to be sort of fun.

The year is self-evident and the locale is the remote Valley of the Yagahl, where each year a tribe of hardscrabble hunters trap and kill one of the giant wooly mammoths that each migrate through their valley. But a great change is afoot: The mammoths no longer appear as often as they once did (global warming, pehaps?) and Old Mother (Mona Hammond), the aged Yagahl matriarch who speaks to the spirits and foretells the future, has had a frightening vision of the future. A final hunt will soon be upon them, at which time "four-legged demons" will invade the valley and put an end to the world as they know it. But the Yagahl's destiny is not without hope. Old Mother has also foreseen that Evolet (Grayson Hunt Urwin), the blue-eyed girl-child whom the Yagahl found clinging to her slaughtered mother in a burned-out settlement, will join with a great hunter-turned-warrior and herald in a new era of plenty.

Time passes and the year of the final hunt Old Mother has prophesized finally arrives. D'Leh (Steven Strait), a hunter living under a cloud of shame ever since his father (Kristian Beazley) inexplicably abandoned the valley and his people when D'Leh was just a child, fells the annual mammoth more by accident than skill, and earns the right to carry the sacred white spear and woo the woman of his choice: the now-grown Evolet (Camilla Belle). D'Leh's victory, however, is soon overshadowed by the arrival of the four-legged devils -- brutal marauders on horseback. The raiders, led by the evil One-Eye (Marco Khan) and his boss (Ben Badra), decimate the village and kidnap many of the survivors -- including Evolet -- to serve as slaves in a distant land. D'Leh, his rival Ka'ren (Mo Zainal), tribe leader Tic'Tic (Cliff Curtis) and young tagalong Baku (Nathanael Baring) bravely venture forth to rescue the captives, climbing snowy peaks, bushwhacking their way through thick jungle and trekking across scorching deserts -- terrain fraught with sabertooth tigers and killer dodos -- into a strange new world of pyramids and wicked men who rule as gods.

"History" here has more to do with all the older movies (not to mention books by Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard and Jules Verne) Emmerich and co-screenwriter Harald Kloser raided for ideas, and they get themselves off the accuracy hook by having narrator Omar Sharif introduce the film by intoning that sometimes legend is more enduring than fact. Like those movies of yore, it's all about the spectacle, and for the most part the CGI effects deliver (that poor sabertooth notwithstanding), particularly when the attacking digital beasts are partially obscured by long grass, darkness or rain. One does miss the rear projection, miniatures and other tacky effects that made movies like SHE, THE LOST WORLD and VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN so much fun, but there's enough comic relief in overblown speeches and heroes who look like a cross between Bob Marley and Frank Zappa and villains who could be mistaken for Osama bin Laden.

--Ken Fox

10000 BC - the trailer

Here you can see the trailer of the '10000 BC' movie

If you'll search within the archive - I've added today the opinions of the most important critics on the blog so in case you may want to know what others think about the premiere and the plot of the movie, you can just simply browse today's archive.

Michael Phillips, Tribune critic, about the 10000 BC - 3 stars (out of four)

How to explain the agreeably bone-headed “10,000 B.C”? “Ice Age 2” may be more historically accurate. Actual young women circa 10,000 B.C. probably didn’t wear enough eyeliner to have it dribble down their cheeks, discreetly, while heaving lovelorn sighs and uttering to their valiant men: “You came for me.” Yet sometimes you have a hankering for a slab of 10,000-year-old cheese. Here it is, on a cracker.

Omar Sharif narrates, as if relaying a tale older and more revered than last year’s cheese of choice, “300,” by roughly 9,600 years. The time: 10,000 B.C., in a realm of momentous ecological change and enormous flightless prehistoric dinosaur birds out for blood, to say nothing of the science-fictionally scaled saber-toothed tigers, or the mammoths on which the Yagahl tribe subsists.

Steven Strait (top left, with one of the computer-generated “Spear-Tooth” kitties) portrays the hunter-warrior-pin-up boy D’Leh. Early on the tribe’s mystic, known as Old Mother, combines prophecy with a little matchmaking and deems D’Leh as the one who must carry the White Spear and protect the tribe from extinction, while fulfilling his destiny with the Blue-Eyed One (Camilla Belle, lower left, eyebrows apparently tweezed at some pricey 10,000 B.C. day spa).

This is a schlock epic, or “schlopic,” that really gets around. Warmongering slave-raiders capture the Blue-Eyed One. D’Leh becomes a summer-intern Spartacus and convinces various other tribes to join his cause (the film could’ve been called “Quest for Ingenue”) while coping with gargantuan prehistoric birds in the Lost Valley and Spear-Toothed kitties out on the plains. Eventually D’Leh crosses the Desert of Limitless Sand and reaches a slave-fueled pyramid construction site, enough to bring tears to the eyes of both Donald Trump and Steve Wynn.

The whole saga plays like a five-DVD shuffle of “Apocalypto,” “Ice Age,” “Quest for Fire” and any two previous Roland Emmerich schlopics you can name. Director Emmerich gave the world “Stargate,” “Independence Day,” “The Patriot” and “The Day After Tomorrow,” that last one being a five-DVD shuffle of “Earthquake,” “The Towering Inferno,” “Ice Age,” “An Inconvenient Truth” and, for all I know, “Carnival in Flanders.”

Emmerich has no time for poetry or magic, even when the director and his digital wizards (here doing wildly variable work) are trying to dazzle. He’s a taskmaster and a field marshall, not a visionary. But I enjoyed “10,000 B.C.” more and more, and more than just about anything Emmerich’s done before. The Teutonic solemnity of his mythmaking approach keeps everyone in line. The crowd at the AMC River East may have chuckled at the eyeliner down the cheeks of the Blue-Eyed One.
But what’s a schlopic without such felicities? - Todd McCarthy speaking about the movie

Todd McCarthy

Conventional where it should be bold and mild where it should be wild, 10,000 BC reps a missed opportunity to present an imaginative vision of a prehistoric moment. Pussyfooting around with multicultural fantasies of how various African tribes might have banded together against unnamed pyramid-building slavemasters, with periodic attacks by now-extinct giant beasts, helmer Roland Emmerich does serve up some moments of grand spectacle to enliven an otherwise bland concoction. After long delays (pic was originally announced for summer 2007 release), Warner Bros. is pointedly opening the film in what is now referred to as the 300 slot, generating expectations that should result in a potent opening. Stateside B.O. will likely slide quickly, but international prospects appear quite brawny.

With the nearly limitless possibilities provided by CGI and violence-tolerant R ratings, it would seem that, if you're going to make an action epic set in an exotic time and place, you just need to go for it. Regardless of one's critical opinions of individual films, it's hard to deny the balls-out, ultra-visceral, stylistically audacious approaches of Apocalypto and 300 injected some fresh excitement into a long-dormant and generally derided genre.

The box office will tell its own story, but in terms of sheer impact, it seems all but pointless to make such a film now that holds back to avoid an R rating. Compared to its brethren, 10,000 BC seems neutered, timid and unnaturally averse to showing, much less dramatically embracing the implicit savagery of its warrior characters. It even seems to put itself above addressing the most elemental desires of the teen fanbase by offering little beefcake and absolutely no cheesecake -- a basic component entirely understood by the makers of the scruffy 1966 Raquel Welch starrer One Million Years B.C., a film suitable even for small fry.

First big sequence is a woolly mammoth hunt meant to establish the new leader of a small mountain tribe. As impressively rendered here, the mammoths truly live up to their name, but the hunt ends inconclusively; D'Leh (Steven Strait), a dreadlocked young man considered to be the village coward, almost accidentally makes the kill and in good conscience can't accept the two intended rewards -- the symbolic white spear meant for the top hunter, and the hand of his longtime love, blue-eyed beauty Evolet (Camilla Belle).

As in both Apocalypto and One Million Years B.C., the core of the film is a long trek into unknown territory, prompted here by the kidnapping of Evolet and other young villagers by marauding horsemen. As D'Leh, older mentor Tic'Tic (Cliff Curtis) and two others traverse snowy peaks, dense jungle and eventually forbidding desert in pursuit of the interlopers, they encounter a flock of giant flightless birds with outsized beaks that aggressively manifest the direct connection between dinosaurs and fowl, as well as a saber-toothed tiger of refined sensibilities.

Along the way, D'Leh gains the backing of a black tribe whose ranks have also been thinned by the slavers. More African desert folk join the march, so by the time they arrive at a city dominated by a towering pyramid under construction, the nomads have gathered a considerable army.

The lascivious desires of her captors notwithstanding, Evolet is being saved for delivery to the desert deity, a shrouded figure with a voice like the devil in The Exorcist. Gradually developing the instincts of a real leader, D'Leh bets that the thousands of slaves forced to work alongside mammoths pushing huge blocks up the pyramid will join his battle, and the sweeping shots of the back-breaking work and subsequent fighting are undeniably imposing.

All the same, in none of the film's numerous eventful episodes does Emmerich demonstrate any skill or even interest in carefully building the drama to create anticipation or stir suspense. As with a pyramid, every sequence is just another undifferentiated block to be added to what's already there. This happens, then that happens, with no scene-setting, nuance, grace notes or imaginative embellishment. The borderline ludicrous feel-good ending suggests that a certain African pyramid-building empire went the way of Troy.

Multiracial cast members make more impact by their looks than by any thesping efforts, although Strait has a bit of Colin Farrell's dark-eyed watchfulness. Visual effects are of a high standard, as are locations provided by New Zealand, South Africa and Namibia. One wishes the same could be said of Emmerich and Harald Kloser's script, which has the characters speaking relatively straightforward English, makes no attempt to develop any distinguishing linguistic characteristics and features the occasional howler, as when one warrior calms another by saying, "I understand your pain."

This is a case where some madly primitive musical accompaniment could have set a much-needed otherworldly tone, circumstances that make the score by Kloser and Thomas Wander seem particularly banal. End credits run for 10 minutes.

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