10,000 BC

April 6th, 2008 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

It’s strange that it took a director from Germany to revitalise everything Hollywood used to be about. By the mid 1990s themes and subtext were more credible that thrills and spectacle, and when director Roland Emmerich bought us Independence Day, he used the burgeoning digital effects movement to take movies straight back to the 1940s. He reminded us of a time when going to the movies was all about the gasps of terror, amazement and delight at seeing things we could scarcely imagine.

Despite critical mauling for Independence Day and every film since, Emmerich has filled studio coffers time and again with movies that captured the same unparalleled spectacle. So if you’re a fan of effects movies that dream bigger than most of us can fathom, you’ll be lining up for excitedly for 10,000 BC but slightly deflated when you emerge.

There’s nothing at all wrong with the film — it contains everything Emmerich gets right. There’s a lot of emotional gravity in the script and a classic hero’s journey set-up of a young upstart aided by a wise elder following the trail of the woman he loves on a desperate rescue mission.

There are sweeping long shots of the half-built pyramids of Egypt, stampeding woolly mammoth herds and giant, carnivorous, prehistoric ostrich-creatures where the digital effects are as seamless as you’ll see in any film.

It’s just that there’s no Emmerich X factor. His other movies have that one scene (or several of them) where your breath catches in your throat, hardly able to believe the audacity of the idea. Think of the Empire State Building exploding under the weapon of a massive alien spacecraft or a lizard the size of a skyscraper or a tidal wave crashing through the streets of New York.

Maybe it’s Emmerich’s fetish for destroying the Big Apple that gives his films those iconic images that elevate them beyond mere CGI blockbusters, but 10,000 BC just doesn’t have them. Instead of knowing you’ll remember it for years to come, you know it’s just another popcorn flick you’ll forget by the time you’re driving home from the multiplex.

D’leh (Strait) grows up in a tribal community in a snowy mountain range wrought by damning prophecy and the spectre of starvation. When slavers attack and take half the villagers hostage, D’leh and senior hunter Tic Tic (Curtis) set off beyond the mountains and through the deserts of ancient Africa tracking their attackers to free their people, including D’leh’s lover-by-destiny, Evolet (Belle).

As they emerge from the jungles and deserts to the sweeping civilisation of ancient Egypt where cruel, enigmatic overlords drive them to exhaustion and death, you’ll be reminded a little too much of Apocalypto, and there’s nothing much to really stick in your mind. ‘Cinema of the Grand’ has been a lot better.

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