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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » History Channel: Journey to 10,000 B.C.
History Channel: Journey to 10,000 B.C.
A&E Video // PG // June 24, 2008
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Kauffman | posted July 3, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:
I don't know what's funnier, the fact that the History Channel tried to piggyback this special onto one of the more critically reviled films of the past couple of years, or the fact that their bare bones budget effort actually probably gives more of an idea of what life was really like way back then than does Roland Emmerich's film.

As is typical of History Channel specials, this particular piece ping pongs back and forth between some generally excellent talking head segments, from such diverse halls of learning as the Smithsonian and University of Wyoming, and some pretty schlocky looking CGI segments purportedly recreating what life was like back then. Surprisingly, some of the more cogent visual presentations come by way of the talking head segments--when a paleontologist holds up the femur and tooth of a mammoth you are immediately given an awe inspiring idea of the beasts' size. Several archeological digs are shown throughout the piece, mostly in the western U.S., while another segment has some interesting analysis of dirt layers in Delaware that are being examined to figure out why the "clovis-people" (early Americans who hunted with the distinctive clovis spearheads) suddenly vanished. While the focus of the piece is largely on these first proto-Americans, the special spans the globe as it explores the nomadic tendencies of the primal hunter-gatherers.

It might come as a surprise to some current global warming deniers to find out that climate change, this time in the other direction, was the cause of a massive die-out in this era. One of the most fascinating segments in the special shows ice cylinders from 13,000 years ago placed in vacuum tubes, where they are slowly melted, releasing air bubbles from that time period. An analysis of this air shows high levels of methane, which scientists feel prove a massive meteor hit the planet, spreading dust and debris literally worldwide, which took over 1000 years to dissipate.

Unfortunately these more informative "real life" segments are hampered by just patently silly CGI and CGI mixed with heavily made-up human segments. It's hard not to laugh when obviously green-screened in human actors' feet do not seem to be interacting with the CGI environment in which they are supposedly walking. The various beasts are also fairly ridiculous looking. The aura of pure and rampant speculation that also hangs over this enterprise actually made me outright angry at one point, when a very vivid recreation of a sabre-tooth tiger attacking and killing a young mother is shown (replete with explicit gouge marks running down the actress' face), followed by this incredible piece of narration: "No evidence exists supporting the thesis that any attacks on humans ever happened." Why go to such lengths to show it, then?

This is a fairly typical, if at times more in-depth, History Channel examination of an interesting fork in the road for humankind.

The DVD

Video:
Is the History Channel ever going to wake up, in either its broadcast version or its DVD releases, to the fact that anamorphic enhancement is here to stay. While their HD channel is routinely stretched from an unenhanced 1.33:1 ratio, this DVD, as is the case with most History Channel product, is in an unenhanced 1.78:1 ratio. National Geographic used to do this too, but has wised up and started releasing their DVDs in anamorhpically enhanced versions. One hopes the History Channel with catch on before history bypasses DVDs altogether. Colors and contrast are acceptable, though the CGI elements are very soft looking.

Sound:
The DD 2.0 soundtrack is pretty standard for this kind of fare. Fidelity is fine, separation is fairly non-existent.

Extras:
None, which is somewhat surprising. Usually we at least get a bonus documentary included.

Final Thoughts:
If you're interested in this time period, or were one of the few who loved Emmerich's film, this is probably worth an evening's rental. Otherwise, skip it.

____________________________________________
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet

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