'10,000 B.C.': Time Bomb, By Kurt Loder

The Stone Age itself may have had better movies than this.

The new Roland Emmerich movie "10,000 B.C." can be recommended to those who have (1) never seen Mel Gibson's vastly superior "Apocalypto"; (2) never seen the matchless "Lord of the Rings" pictures; or (3) never seen a movie before in their lives. To call the film derivative would be to over-praise it. Much of the story and several key sequences - especially one set in a huge pyramid city swarming with slaves - are ripped straight out of the Gibson movie, while the stampeding mastodons and snowy New Zealand mountaintop panoramas (along with some sub-Howard Shore soundtrack symphonizing) will surely stir feelings of familiarity among Frodophiles.

More than anything else, though, the movie recalls the overblown Hollywood biblical epics of the 1950s, with all their attendant anachronisms and free-floating cheese. The story, which is blandly generic, is set in the late Stone Age, a period in which the filmmakers appear to have had no particular interest - they've blithely adjusted the inceptions of textile manufacture, navigation and fortress cities by thousands of years. The tale concerns a mountain tribe called the Yagahl, and centers on three of its members: the handsome young hunter D'Leh (Steven Strait), his beautiful childhood sweetheart, Evolet (Camilla Belle), and his wise mentor Tic'Tic (Cliff Curtis). The question of whether people might really have had apostrophes in their names back in Paleolithic times is quickly subsumed by the larger question of why the Yagahl speak English while everyone else they encounter in the film rattles on in the colorful gibberish ("Naht'm gahtzi!") traditionally reserved for movieland primitives. Other puzzlements include the fashion-forward dreadlocks on the men and Evolet's boldly plucked-and-penciled eyebrows, not to mention the mascara-tinged tears she sometimes sheds.

In any case, one day the Yagahl are attacked in their peaceful village by a gang of marauding horsemen, who carry off several Yagahlis as slaves - among them, of course, the lovely Evolet. D'Leh, Tic'Tic and the other male survivors of this onslaught give chase through mountains, jungles and deserts, and along the way have hair-raising encounters with saber-toothed tigers, giant woolly mammoths and ferocious, proto-ostrich "terror birds." (The digital artistry with which these creatures are rendered is highly impressive - the rampaging birds are especially scary; if only anything else in the movie measured up to them.) Finally, D'Leh and company, together with some other tribal guys they've recruited along the way, arrive at the evil pyramid city, which is ruled by a towering, heavily veiled god-king called the Almighty (an initially impressive figure who turns out to be just some old coot, and so what?).

Throughout all of this, a fruity voiceover (by Paleolithic Egyptian star Omar Sharif) has been droning on about "ze Legend of ze Child With Blue Eyes," a reference to Evolet's contact lenses. This limp myth-mongering is only a mild annoyance until we realize that its sole purpose has been to facilitate what must be the most preposterous ending of any movie of the century to date. (At the screening I attended, even small children groaned.) On second thought, if there are any people who've never seen a movie before in their lives, they'd be better-advised not to start with this one.

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