10,000 BC ** (out of ****)

Director: Roland Emmerich
Writers: Roland Emmerich and Harald Kloser
Cast: Steven Strait, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis, Joel Virgel, Ben Badra, Mo Zainal, Nathanael Baring, Mona Hammond, Marco Khan, Reece Ritchie, Joel Fry
Rating: PG-13 (sequences of intense action and violence)
Running Time: 109 min
Release Date: 3/7/08

10,000 BC is sort of a Conan the Barbarian without an Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s hero D’Leh (Steven Strait), whose name is pronounced like the former House Majority Leader, is the son of a man who had left the Yagahl tribe some years earlier. He has had a serious infatuation with Evelet (Camilla Belle), who is a survivor of a neighboring tribe that was wiped out by “four-legged demons” (armed horsemen). The Yagahl’s medicine woman, Old Mother (Mona Hammond), sees great events in Evelet’s future.

The tribe’s way of life is based on hunting mammoths is being threatened by Global Warming, i.e. the Ice Age is coming to an end! D’Leh hopes to kill a big mammoth for the tribe and so win the “white spear” signifying him as the chief hunter and the Evelet as his bride. When the big hunt occurs, D’Leh gets caught in when a mammoth breaks free. The tribe sees this mistakenly as an act of great courage on his part by not letting go. The beast is killed more by accident than by his hunting skills and D’Leh’s honesty is so great that he refuses the reward that he wanted.

An ever present character through out the film is Old Mother (Mona Hammond). She is not some tribal “hocus pocus” charlatan. Rather, she demonstrates major paranormal abilities on the level of a Class Two Psi from James Schmitz “Telzey” stories. She can follow events at a distance and has very significant powers. An event at the conclusion highlights just how powerful she is. Yet, for of this she misses warning the tribe of their impending peril.

The Yagahl are getting by until one day the “four-legged demons” come for them too. Several of their members are taken captive including Evelet. D’Leh joins a small group of tribesman led by Tic Tic (Cliff Curtis) on a trek to rescue the hostages. On the way they face many perils including a large predatory flightless birds and saber-tooth tigers. Tic Tic dies due to wounds suffered in during the bird attack.

Eventually they find that the captors are workings for a self-proclaimed “deity” of origins unknown. He is running a major slave-labor-based pyramid construction project. The slaves are of both black and white races and the location is unknown. If it’s supposed to be Egypt, the pyramid construction is thousands of years too early. Why would the slavers travel all the way to Europe to capture a few white hunter-gathers? Is it to provide greater diversity to the workplace, perhaps?

Anyway, D’Leh rapport with saber-tooth tigers impresses the other tribes and so he is able to assume a leadership role in the coming rebellion. As for the climax, say spear of destiny? What a throw and the “false-deity” doesn’t even duck! This is followed shortly by an over the top scene in which Evelet is shot in the back by an arrow. Yet, Old Mother’s psi abilities are ample enough to raise Evelet from the dead for a happy crowd pleasing end.

The problem is this movie just doesn’t generate any interest. It has great locations and great CGI effects. But, it doesn’t develop any characters they we really care about. Steven Straight doesn’t seem credible as a larger then life action hero. Sorry, but he’s no Arnold!

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