The narrator in Roland Emmerichs 10,000 BC tells us that only time can teach us what is truth and what is legend.
I am not exactly sure what that means, since truth is as abstract a concept as time, but I do know that no time is needed to determine whether or not 10,000 itself will become a legend. Its prompt thrashing among most movie critics has already destined the film to a legendary level of bad.
Written by Emmerich and film composer Harald Kloser, 10,000 is a prehistoric tale of mankinds first hero, a hunter named DLeh (Steven Strait). Like any good would-be hero, DLeh is ostracized among his tribe, the Yagahl, for something his father did years ago.
This shame quickly disappears, though, when marauders raze the Yagahl village and steal, among many others, DLehs love, a blue-eyed beauty named Evolet (Camilla Belle). DLeh sets out to rescue Evolet and the rest of his people, teaming up with a wise old hunter named TicTic (Cliff Curtis).
Of course, all of this has been foretold to both DLeh and us, the audience, via the narrator (Omar Sharif) as part of a prophecy concerning a man who, with his blue-eyed love, brings food and freedom to the Yagahl.
Concerned more with love than freedom for his people, DLeh endures many trials in his quest for Evolet. He crosses many lands and encounters many prehistoric monstrosities, only to learn that Evolet has been enslaved by pyramid-building quasi-Egyptians under the rule of a pale pharaoh-like creature who came either from the stars or that great city that sank into the water.
Those familiar with Emmerichs work will recognize this kitchen-sink type mythologizing from Stargate (1994), which also featured alien-influenced Egyptians.
Unfortunately, whereas Stargate had a story complete with characters and drama-serving action, 10,000 is barely more than a by-the-numbers showcase of all the bare essentials of a heros journey, bound loosely with an overwritten narration.
Further differentiating itself from Emmerichs other work, most of the CGI effects are embarrassingly poor; the green screen backgrounds are uncomfortably rough and the fur on the woolly mammoths more cartoon-ish than fierce.
As the film progresses, it becomes clear that most of the CGI budget was spent on rendering a saber-toothed tiger and an end battle sequence atop a pyramid ramp. Both are admittedly pretty neat, but not so great as to erase the memory of earlier in the film when the would-be hero was trying to kill poor old Snuffleupagus.
10,000 does have a few redeeming qualities (its clever use of astronomy being one of them), so it is by no means the worst movie ever.
But with its lazy writing, dry acting and un-thrilling effects, this movie is a reminder of how evolved our storytelling of myths and legends has become something Mel Gibson captured well in Apocalypto, but which Emmerich has yet to understand.
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