From director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) comes a story set in a semi-mythical age where shamans prophesise four-legged demons, mighty mammoths rule the tundra, and the fields of history and archaeology barely get a look-in.
In a remote mountain village young hunter DLeh (Steven Strait) has been in love with the beautiful Evolet (Camilla Belle) since childhood. When shes kidnapped by a mysterious gang of horseback warriors he, and three others, follow to save her. Their journey finds them attacked by strange predators and aided by other tribes who have suffered a similar fate and, as his small group becomes an army, DLeh realises that he has to save much more than Evolet.
The casting of Strait (Undiscovered, The Covenant) and Belle (The Ballad of Jack and Rose, The Quiet) is creditable, yet somehow uninspired. Theres enough onscreen chemistry to make the central premise of the story believable, but its not going to scorch the pages of cinema history. Their performances are good and, although more experienced actors may have given stronger performances, the lack of superstars somehow adds to the aura of the movie.
The film-makers have gone to great lengths with regards to the supporting cast, even down to having narration from industry veteran Omar Sharif. Cliff Curtis (Whale Rider, Live Free or Die Hard) is one of New Zealands most successful acting exports, and underpins much of the movie in a quasi-Gandalf role. Newcomer Nathaniel Baring, working on the basis that some things probably havent changed that much, plays teenager Baku who longs to be an adult hunter with the right sort of quirky humour. Also deserving of a mention is Mona Hubbard (Kinky Boots and Eastenders) who, with her cross-cutting visions and premonitions, weaves the threads of the story together as wise-woman Old Mother.
Not that the cast have that much acting to do. This is definitely a film where you need to disengage your brain before sitting down to watch. Leaving aside the detail that everyone seems to have ridiculously good teeth, theres more than enough to have historians and palaeontologists sobbing quietly into their popcorn. From the attacks by terrible birds that died out in eons before the story is set to the fact that all the Giza pyramids are shown being built simultaneously thousands of years too early for a god-like king with unfeasibly long finger-nails. Best to not even mention the use of slave labour and herds of mammoths pulling stone blocks in the desert.
If you can stomach all that youre left with an unpretentiously tongue-in-cheek film with a heavy emphasis on CG imagery that teeters on cheesy without ever quite tumbling. Theyve drawn on a variety of existing stories and parables with a twist, so the thorn in the paw of Androcles lion becomes a sabre-tooth trapped in a flooding pit. There are so many knowing nods to other films that its remarkable no Raquel Welch look-a-like ever appears wearing a fur bikini.
There are some good one-liners and the cast is competent enough to carry a story that could have been as lumbering as a herd of digital mammoths. 10,000 BC is a kids movie that adults will be too embarrassed to admit they enjoyed, so take yours along and be prepared to lie to the people in the office the next day.