Cult Pics and Trash Flicks: 10,000 BC (2008)
Editor’s Notes: The following review is a part of Matthew Blevins’ weekly series Cult Pics and Trash Flicks
OK, I know what you’re probably thinking, but you’ve got to hear me out on this one. I wouldn’t typically cover one of Roland Emmerich’s computer generated cinematic Red Bulls in any column, but this all started with a very special gift and unforgettable moment. My five year old son got the opportunity to pick a Valentine’s Day gift for dad, and he knows that daddy loves movies so what better gift could there possibly be than a DVD? Anyone familiar with my walk-in DVD closet knows that buying a film for me is probably going to end in disappointment. It’s not that I would ever be ungrateful for a gift chosen earnestly, but people know that I already own a ridiculous number of films in various formats and the taste is a cinephile is an enigma to most that choose to spend their free time outside of dark rooms. My son wanted to pick a film for me, but he wanted to choose very carefully so it wouldn’t be a film that I already owned. When presented with this very special and considerate gift my heart warmed and a smile overtook my face. It wasn’t until my son asked me if I already owned the film that one of those rare moments in fatherhood that you know will stay with you forever occurred. I responded that I did not own the film, nor had I ever watched it! His response of pure elation as he triumphantly yelled “I knew it!” nearly brought tears to my eyes, as in that moment I understood how important this gift was to him. He was giving me the gift of film, and this wonderful, thoughtful, brilliant, and always (ok, almost always) kind child knew that uncharted cinematic territory was one of daddy’s most valued treasures, so he had succeeded in his difficult task. So this piece is for you, Daniel James Blevins, you show me more about the beauty of the human soul than any piece of art ever could.
Roland Emmerich’s 10,000 BC is the same trope chop-salad with extra cheese that one would expect from the director who spent his career smashing loud noises and paint-by-numbers storytelling together in a multitude of pretty colored explosions. This venture would necessitate a serious damper of the typical Emmerich explosion budget as it followed Paleolithic man through his Anglicanized adventures across the Ural Mountains and the invention of impressive explosions wouldn’t occur until nearly 12 millennia later.
Roland Emmerich’s 10,000 BC is the same trope chop-salad with extra cheese that one would expect…
The film follows the improbably exciting lives of a pre-agrarian tribe of hunters and sha(wo)men as they carry out their difficult lives. A simple lot of folk; superstitious, primitive, and constantly fearful of invasion but hardened by the dangers of years of collecting meat from dangerous herds of unwilling mammoths. This improbably suave (but appropriately grimy) group of scrappy hunters must become warriors and face an even harsher world where things such as “terror birds” exist to save the rest of their tribe who has been captured by a group of ruthless warriors from a nearby budding civilization. Plot ensues and prophecies are fulfilled as Emmerich assaults us with fast moving images, all massaged or outright manufactured by digital technologies still too young to hide their revealing idiosyncrasies, but burgeoning technologies have always been the playthings of artists and storytellers willing to sacrifice realism for a new way to see an idea come to fruition.
A title like “10,000BC” suggests at least a tepid connection to historical events, but this film lives in its own universe, one that will allow for the grandiosity and spectacle that it earnestly reaches for but never quite achieves. I haven’t done all of my homework on this one, but I’m quite positive there are a multitude of historical inaccuracies found within 10,000BC. Luckily for us, storytelling isn’t beholden to historical accuracy, even if we do come from a generation fueled by pedantry, the unfortunate cultural byproduct of the instant availability of… Well, mostly everything, really.
inarguably stylish as its impossible landscapes unfold in eye-catching digital constructs, detached from the “real” but amply satisfying for our secret urge to see pretty pictures and thoughtless action every once in a while.
Its anachronistic chicanery and “lack of content” would earn the film general disdain in critical circles, but I’ve never been a fan of the “all style and no substance” argument as most narrative films essentially tell the same stories, contorted into new contexts or given post-modern twists that cause rejoicing in mainstream audiences and critics alike, believing themselves too jaded to be wowed but overjoyed when a film does the same thing as hundreds that came before but this time in new and interesting ways. There is no singular objective to art and the beloved film canon is filled with films that forged new styles with a modicum of substance, crafted from borrowed stories and adherent to a compulsory three-act structure, that ever-undying storytelling technique that fulfills our need for quick drama, easy accessibility, and cathartic payoff.
10,000BC fills those needs with its comforting predictability and adrenaline tickling action, and in its frenetic predictability manages to possess an impressive amount of style. Each frame may be manipulated and color corrected into a vile bastardization of the “real”, but one shouldn’t go looking for spiritual enlightenment or immutable truths in a Roland Emmerich film. This is cinema devised purely to engage the viewer at the most primitive level and excite them with impossible worlds and epic tales of nobility (adjusted to modern conceptions of the term, naturally). It’s nothing new or unpredictable, but it is exciting and inarguably stylish as its impossible landscapes unfold in eye-catching digital constructs, detached from the “real” but amply satisfying for our secret urge to see pretty pictures and thoughtless action every once in a while.