Roland Emmerich is renowned for destroying most of the known world in his films. Whether it’s Mayan prophecies, aliens, global warming or possibly even the Gods of Egypt (if it wasn’t for James Spader and Kurt Russell, anyway), he’s always at home blowing things up.
Some might argue that he’s also managed to destroy history in 10,000 BC. It’s like an even more rubbish version of Pathfinder. At least that had Clancy Brown in it. No offence, but Cliff Curtis isn’t in the same league as the mighty Clancy. Then again, few people are. Even a sighting of everyone’s favourite supermarket employee Leighton (Joel Fry) isn’t enough to elevate this above average.
A tribal group of woolly mammoth hunters are attacked by a group of horse riding bad guys. They kidnap a large number of the tribe, including the woman of lead character D’reh (Steven Strait). This of course will not be tolerated, so he and a small group of remaining tribesmen set off in pursuit. What follows is your standard A to B adventure, with occasionally iffy CGI beasts and a story that is little more than D’reh stabbing various animals with sticks.
The setting might be 12,000 years ago, but in all other respects it’s just like every other revenge/quest story you’ve seen. No risks are taken, nothing exceptional takes place in the story. It’s as if they decided that they had already taken a big risk in setting it when they did. To push things even further would mean no money coming in. Which, it seems, didn’t happen anyway.
It’s a bit weird seeing and hearing these characters acting like modern day people, albeit people who look like Rastafarians who have spent a little too long in an aviary. It also gets increasingly silly as things progress. From making friends with sabre tooth tigers to pyramids being built using elephants and woolly mammoths, to the leaders of the work force possibly, maybe not being from Earth.
It’s a bit of a tonal change that doesn’t sit well with the first half of the film. The constant shifting of landscape is also something that doesn’t really work. Yes, it’s supposed to show the epic journey that the characters are going on, but in real terms it just feels like the varied settings are right next door to one another.
This is one of the things that Emmerich does get right though. Using sweeping camerawork to fly over the landscape is always a winner. The location shoots are gorgeous to look at, although their impact is occasionally spoiled by sequences where the actors are clearly on a green screen set.
Even more strangely, it seems to link in to the Stargate franchise, based on a couple of easter eggs here and there. That “could be aliens” thing mentioned earlier, and that the bad guys sound like the Goa’uld. Exploring the history of the Goa’uld in this time period? That would be rather epic indeed. And, sadly, a much better idea for a film than this one.