Caveman quest heavy on effects, not characters

Posted: March 07, 2008

Who says movies aren't educational? Films about prehistoric life offer so many unexpected lessons.

As I remember it, in One Million Years B.C., cavebabe Raquel Welch, member of the pacific Shell tribe, whips up the breastcloth/loincloth bikini and teaches manners to unrefined John Richardson, expat from the warrior Rock tribe. In Caveman, Ringo Starr invents the wheel, the joke and (literally) rock-and-roll music. In Quest for Fire, Rae Dawn Chong essentially invents language and the missionary position.

In 10,000 B.C., Roland Emmerich's tedious, ludicrous and harmless glimpse of the dawn of civilization, we see the origins of modern hair and makeup. The humans have dreadlocks and mud-masques, and so do the woolly mammoths. Very hip, very organic. Always a good thing when predators and prey are coordinated.

Set in a CGI continent of mountain glaciers, vast deserts and lush forests, a continent of Negroid, Asian and Caucasian tribes, 10K is solemnly narrated by Omar Sharif,an elder passing down his tribe's origin story.

It is the tale of D'Leh (Steven Strait), the self-doubting outsider whose quest for his blue-eyed beloved, Evolet (Camilla Belle), kidnapped by marauders on horseback, will transform his people from hunter-gatherers to an agrarian community.

D'Leh is an outcast because his father left the tribe and never returned. So when he sets out to find Evolet, he is anxious that he will likewise be regarded as cowardly.

On his quest across glacier, glade and desert, D'Leh encounters a saber-tooth and calms it with his newfound skills of tiger-whisperer. He also faces off an angry, angry ostrich that looks like Big Bird with alligator teeth.

Through it all, D'Leh is brave, buff and brainy, using inductive reasoning to subdue bloodthirsty enemies both animal and human. He has a boon companion in Tic'Tic (Cliff Curtis), who helps this Pleistocene Ulysses achieve heroic feats.

The film's penultimate scenes are in Egypt, where Evolet has been taken as a slave to build the pyramids and to be an all-purpose lust object. This setting affords D'Leh the opportunity to show his aversion to polytheism and Emmerich to show crimson-sailed boats on the Nile. Ah, the dawn of man; red sails in the sunset.

Bottom line: Would that Emmerich took as much care with his human characters as with inanimate objects and CGI animals.

10,000 B.C. *1/2 (out of four stars)

Directed by Roland Emmerich. With Steven Strait, Camilla Belle and Cliff Curtis, narrated by Omar Sharif. Distributed by Warner Bros.

Running time: 1 hour, 49 mins.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (intense action, violence, threat of sexual violence).

Playing at: area theaters.

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey

at 215-854-5402 or

Read her blog, "Flickgrrl,"


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