As my mother once told me, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Unfortunately, such advice doesn't work for us film critics -- because if that were the case, this review would be entirely blank.
'10,000 B.C.' is an absolutely laughable film, a bizarre prehistoric romp filled with insipid dialogue, dumb characters, and mediocre special effects. But what elevates this latest epic from the fertile mind of Roland Emmerich ('ID4,' 'The Day After Tomorrow') to the level of high camp is its utter pretentiousness. One gets the impression that Emmerich and his cast and crew really believed they had made some sort of action masterpiece on their hands, or at least a really kick-ass remake of a forgotten old '50s B-flick. Unfortunately for them, all they have concocted is the new millennium's answer to 'Clan of the Cave Bear,' but with lots of obscenely expensive sets and lame-ass CGI.
There are so many unintentionally ludicrous aspects to '10,000 B.C.' that one review cannot possibly contain them all. Taking place about 12,000 years ago, the historical and anthropological inaccuracies could fill up the Encyclopedia Britannica. Of course, realism seems to be of little concern to Emmerich (both directing and writing here, geesh), who instead gives us some dumb story about cave nitwits with zero IQs. Our star is D'Leh (Steven Strait), a member of the Yagahl tribe of peaceful hunters (is there such a thing?). In a bizarre alternate universe that is vaguely "prehistoric" but more sci-fi (and where everyone sports more big bad hair than the crowd at a Poison concert), a rival brigade of rogue warriors, led by the Warlord (Affif Ben Badra), slaughter much of the Yagahi, and kidnap the beautiful Evolet (Camille Belle), whom D'Leh has been in love with since caveman preschool. Faster than you can say "Mythology 101!", D'Leh is thrust into his epic hero's quest, one which rips off every sci-fi and fantasy film ever made.
'10,000 B.C.' fails so miserably not because Emmerich has never met a cliche he didn't want to swipe, but because he rolls 'em out with such dunder-headed efficiency that it all blurs into abstraction. There aren't really characters here, just blandly good-looking (and largely unknown) actors running around in silly costumes under heavy make-up. They are given tons of quests to complete and action scenes to survive (battling saber tooth tigers, dodging falling boulders etc.), but nothing of real emotional consequence. We care not a whit about D'Leh and Evolet and all these other ciphers with stupid names, albeit to the credit of the actors, they are are all so interchangeable I guess no one will really remember they were stuck in such a cinematic atrocity.
Visually, Emmerich proves he at least learned a thing or two from his successes with 'ID4' and 'Day After Tomorrow.' There are a few nice effects moments (I enjoyed the overdone lightning and thunder, which I guess is sorta-scary just because the soundtrack is so darn loud), and some of the CGI animals and such are well done. But there are also tons of moments of uber-cheese, particularly the awful costumes and sets, some of which look like they were made from paper mache with CGI backdrops attached. The action is also at least well-choreographed and well-paced, so as inane as most of '10,000 B.C.' is, it moves fast enough to keep us from succumbing to narcolepsy.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy '10,000 B.C.' for its camp value. Prehistoric epics are almost always funny to me, if only because the grunting caveman stuff is usually so overdone. Nowhere is this more evident in '10,000 B.C.' than in the climax, which is worthy of a 'Beastmaster' sequel, as Badra so hams it up that I was truly reduced to fits of hysterics. By this point the only thing left to do with '10,000 B.C.' is embrace it for what it is, a fact which actually makes it worth a rental if you just want to have a good hoot at the expense of bad filmmaking. I still can't believe a script as horrible as this ever got made, but if you appreciate glorious cinematic excess, '10,000 B.C.' is the flick for you.
Well, at least '10,000 B.C.' looks good. This 1080p/VC-1 encode (2.40:1) is sharp, detailed and appealing. It's way better than the flick deserves.
Of the transfer's many impressive qualities, the source is absolutely pristine. Blacks are nice and inky, with contrast boisterous across the entire grayscale. The image really pops with great depth and terrific color saturation, especially the lush greens and deep blues. Fleshtones are likewise accurate. Sharpness is right on target but sans annoying edge enhancement. Detail is generally superb, with even the most expansive wide shots flush with fine textures. On the whole, '10,000 B.C.' delivers the kind of picture-perfect images that we expect from great high-def.
Unfortunately, the film's poor CGI put a slight damper on the proceedings for me. These shots sometimes clash, with a very soft look and a few motion artifacts. A couple of shots also had some obvious noise. Granted, this is certainly an aspect to the source, but I found the inconsistency distracting. Otherwise, '10,000 B.C.' is sure to please.
Warner offers up a nice Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit) for '10,000 B.C.', along with standard Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) dubs and subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. The high-res presentation is quite good, though for my money it's not a new demo disc.
Most impressive is how dynamic the track sounds. Low bass is quite forceful, enough that the flick gave my subwoofer more of a workout than any Blu-ray I've reviewed in recent memory. The clarity and expansiveness of the rest of the spectrum is also wonderfully represented, particularly the well-integrated score (even if I found most of it rather poor in terms of composition). Dialogue is also surprisingly well balanced for a loud action film, and I never suffered any volume issues.
Alas, surround use falters. The rears are not as engaged as I hoped. Discrete effects during action scenes are certainly impactful and prominent, but atmosphere is lost. There are many sequences flush with opportunity to really enliven the rears, but we get little sustained ambiance. Smoothness of pans is nice, and tonality of sounds is also polished. Still, for a big-budget action spectacle, I expected more sonic fireworks out of '10,000 B.C.'
Although '10,000 B.C.' was not a blockbuster, it made enough money at the box office that I'm surprised Warner hasn't produced more for its video release. The Blu-ray tops the anemic DVD with some genuine exclusives, but the standard suite of extras here is pretty darn lame. (All of the extras are presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 only, and offer optional English, French and Spanish subtitles.)
'10,000 B.C.' is a truly awful would-be epic. It's also hilarious, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I sorta enjoyed the camp appeal of it all. This Blu-ray sounds very good and looks even better, though the extras (despite a couple of high-def exclusives) feel like throwaways. I'm not even sure '10,000 B.C.' is worth a rental, unless you want to get stoned and have a big hoot-fest with your friends.