In some parallel universe it’s possible that I’m now ranting and raving to anyone that listens about a film called 20,000BC, where the script was sublime, the setting supreme, and the acting performances inspired. And should that be happening, the irony that 10,000BC is a film that’s only half great, would be too neat for words.
As it is, I sit here having watched a film that tries to be all things to all people, and ends up like an old school-friend who it’d be nice to catch up with, but they’re hardly vital to a party situation and so lack the closeness in which you hold your most dear. The point is, I loved Independence Day, so much so it remains to this day the only film I’ve watched twice in the cinema, while The Day After Tomorrow may cause so-so hand wobbles and shoulder shrugs, but its ambition remains admirable. So for a film that claims heritage to both, it’s a shame only the latter trait is present with 10,000BC… and only just.
Things start well enough. The landscape the story inhabits is impressive if not easily placed in real-world terms until the back-end of proceedings. The story unfurls in a style not unlike 300; cue the deep-voiced legend telling, perpetual prophecies and quests to be undertaken by star-crossed (or moon-touched) heroes. And yes, it’s a given that disbelief must be suspended, yet Roland Emmerich, a man who apparently likes the challenge of bringing legends to life, would have been better rewarded to have driven 10,000BC strictly down a serious strait. As it is he prefers pocketing some not wholly convincing dialogue with the occasional trying humour – this itself an aspect I’d rather the film replaced with a plot which more convincingly stitched together in terms of story development, if not in relation to a shakey historic accuracy.
But then perhaps I’ve missed the point a little. If this is supposed to be a family film, I’ll forgive the occasional attempt at fun, the semi-plausible villains of the pre-historic world, the nicely rendered mammoths but otherwise shoe-horned CGI (a sabre-tooth makes an appearance…), and the feeling that though the cinematic score hit some nice notes, the soundtrack is somewhat forgettable.
Of course, I don’t think for a minute that should you and your loved ones, friends, kids, cousins, aunts, uncles, grand parents or history class make a trip to see it, you’ll have wasted money, but you’ll also not have seen a film that made the best of a spine-tingling premise for anyone who likes their distant past exotically conjured and completely immersive. At times I looked around and missed nothing intrinsic to the story, and at others I watched intently and saw little to capture the imagination. So I can only conclude that while 10,000BC has it all in hand; action, romance, intrigue, a fascinating landscape, beautiful effects, and a more than capable cast, it deploys them haphazardly to please the maximum audience. The issue is, only half that audience will probably bother to see it.