If you are ten years old, a fan of video games, and have a short attention span and no knowledge of history, you will love this movie. The further you stray from these core qualifications, the less you will love it.
“10,000 B.C.” is the story of a tribe of ice age mammoth hunters who are scratching out a peaceful existence in the mountains when they are set upon by a fierce band of marauders who capture members of the tribe and drag them off into slavery. One of the captives is Evolet (the deserving-of-better Camilla Belle), the blue-eyed girlfriend of the young hunter D’Leh (Steven Strait). He vows to follow them to the ends of the earth to get her back, and so begins an epic journey in which D’Leh grows from a callow and frightened young man to a mature and powerful leader of men.
Don’t watch too carefully, because the plot makes no sense. And don’t try to use this as your cinematic Cliff’s Notes for your prehistory class. This is not the Discovery Channel. The travelers encounter prehistoric birds (who had died off before humans existed) and Egyptian pyramid-builders (who didn’t arrive until thousands of years later). The geography makes even less sense. Mountains of ice and snow, tropical rain forests and endless barren deserts are all in walking distance. But D’Leh does meet an unforgettable array of characters along the way: TicTic, Kawu, Moha, Tudu, Cala, Baku, Lu’kibu and of course, One-eye. He also makes friends with a saber tooth tiger and enlists the help of mastodons.
The saber tooth tiger is the only cast member with a consistent approach to prehistoric dialect. For the other members, prehistoric speech seems to provide a Rorschach test for each actor: narrator Omar Sharif seems to believe that prehistoric men spoke like a cartoonish Albert Einstein. Strait seems to have adopted the faux-Spanish accent from the old Walt Disney TV show, “Zorro.” I think I detected an Irish brogue at one point. And more than one actor seemed to be channeling Ricardo Montalban. No one knows exactly how prehistoric men spoke, but the mishmash of anachronistic accents is distracting and conveys carelessness rather than diversity.
Still, what the movie lacks in plot, script or acting it partially makes up in CGI: stampeding mastodons, sweeping aerial shots of pyramids under construction, huge boats festooned with swirling sails should all help catch the eye and heart of a ten year old boy.
Parents should know that this movie has some graphic violence and peril, including plenty of fights with swords, spears and clubs. There are lots of fires, storms, floods and scary animals (the scene with dinosaurs in the jungle may be particularly frightening to children). The romance is vague and long distance, just enough to provide motivation without any waste of time on hugging and kissing.
Families who see this movie should talk about what enabled the small tribes to overcome the mighty empire. Would you have set the saber-tooth tiger free?
Families who enjoy this movie should read up on the prehistoric era. They will also enjoy the cheesy classic One Million Years B.C. and the more serious-minded Quest for Fire and Clan of the Cave Bear (both with some mature material).