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10,000 B.C.

Warner Bros. // PG-13 // June 24, 2008
List Price: $35.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 27, 2008 | E-mail the Author
Wait, wait...Apocalypto was set, like, 500 years ago, and it grossed $120 million at the box office here and abroad. 300 took place somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 years back and raked in over $450 mil. Let's roll back the clock to 10,000 B.C., and we're lookin' at...let me do the math here...yup, an estimate of $2,051,556,708 worldwide. Box office gold.

There's more backstory behind 10,000 B.C. I could rattle off, but it pretty much boils down to a more-or-less-caveman named D'Leh (Steven Strait) chasing down
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his kidnapped girlfriend (pretty, pretty Camilla Belle) after their village is razed and nearly everyone is dragged away in chains by the 'four-legged demons'. Without delayhesitation, D'Ley grabs a couple of pals and marches across snowy mountains, steaming jungles, and impenetrable deserts to get her back. Along the way, he learns more about his father who'd shamed the village by abandoning it a lifetime ago, gets sucked into one of the movie's 240 different propehcies, and amasses an army of survivors from other attacks seeking vengeance against this strange, seemingly unstoppable force.

10,000 B.C. never really drew me in. It's hard to get lost in a movie with so much stilted, overenunciated dialogue and overwrought narration, and this being a Roland Emmerich flick and all, it kinda goes without saying that you're not gonna be treated to lush characterization or anything. Evolet is pretty much a girl in a refrigerator prophesied to do nothing but be rescued, I guess, and although the movie tries to give D'Ley some sort of character arc -- y'know, struggling with being abandoned by a father he hardly knew, his rise from a coward accepting undeserved glory to a mighty hero -- 10,000 B.C. feels like it's just going through the motions. Go here. Talk to these guys. Walk some more. Ask these other people something about your father. Square off against some prehistoric critter. Walk another few hundred miles. Lather, rinse, repeat. There's no dimension or personality to this hollow effects spectacle, and everyone and everything in it is just to serve the visuals. Here's the thing, though: for a movie with a budget reported to inch towards the $100 million mark, the CGI really isn't that great, from some really unconvincing backgrounds composited in behind the actors to the distractingly fake beasts.

For a while there, 10,000 B.C. tries to shove in an action sequence every ten minutes and change, but most of 'em are awfully tepid. I mean, one of its big action setpieces has D'Lay and company being attacked by a horde of prehistoric ostriches. Yeah, yeah, they move like velociraptors straight outta Jurassic Park, and I'm sure they snagged the nickname "terror birds" for a reason, but pissed-off almost-ostriches don't exactly leave me dusting off that old nightlight. You've got a woolly mammoth stampede that's in the same league as the dinosaur chase in Peter Jackson's King Kong redux that everyone bitched about online for months on end, a sabretooth tiger who doesn't really do anything but snarl and leap off-frame a couple of times, and a few brutal sieges that Conan the Barbarian did better more than twenty-five years ago. The trailers may have pushed the sabretooth tiger angle pretty hard, but the actual movie comes a lot closer to 300, pitting an outmanned, outgunned group of primitive warriors against a more advanced and mobilized army. The tone is kind of inconsistent too, generally taking itself much too seriously while throwing in one "ow, my balls" gag out of left field, D'Ley firmly asking a prehistoric tiger not to munch on him, even some mwaw-mwaw faux-kissy sounds.

At the same time, I can't really say that 10,000 B.C. was agony to suffer through or anything. The movie doesn't really do much of anything especially well, but it has enough money to throw around and sticks closely enough to safe, familiar formulas that it's kinda-sorta competent. The pace breezes along at a kind of steady clip too, so at least it's never dull. Didn't love it...didn't hate...I just kind of tolerated 10,000 B.C., and while that's not exactly the sort of recommendation Warner's marketeers would want to print on the back of the case in big, bold letters, that's more than I can say for a lot of
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movies. 10,000 B.C. is big, dumb, bland, instantly forgettable, but somehow still kinda watchable. Not recommended, but I wouldn't try to talk you out of a rental or catching it on Cinemax a few months down the road.

Video: 10,000 B.C. looks kind of average for a day-and-date release of such a glossy, big-budget effects spectacle. The 2.39:1 image is sharp and well-defined, but it's not quite as crisp and dazzlingly detailed as the best titles on the format. The featurettes on the disc boast how 10,000 B.C. was shot on location, but at least to my eyes, quite a few shots looked like actors standing in front of a blank background that had been unconvincingly filled in digitally, and maybe the video had been softened slightly to try and compensate. Black levels lack much punch, and 10,000 B.C. doesn't boast that sense of depth and almost tactile dimensionality that I spot in most modern blockbusters. I even noticed some banding in the night skies. 10,000 B.C. certainly looks good on Blu-ray, but the quality can be kind of inconsistent, and it's not a disc I'd grab off the shelf to show off my home theater.

Although 10,000 B.C. was one of Warner's first titles to be exclusively released on Blu-ray, its smaller than average size and lower bitrate would seem to suggest that this VC-1 encode was geared to be used on HD DVD as well. If not for the TrueHD soundtrack and additional featurettes, 10,000 B.C. may have even fit comfortably on a single layer, 15 gig HD DVD disc.

Audio: By the far the best thing about this Blu-ray release of 10,000 B.C. is its Dolby TrueHD audio. With the overwhelming majority of the movie set outside against one punishing backdrop after another, the sound design is teeming with atmosphere and does a fantastic job of filling every speaker. What few interiors there are tend to be brimming with color as well, such as the faint clatter of small bones in the old mother's hut. The more action-oriented scenes growl with aggression and are backed by a thunderous low-end, and the film's dialogue is rendered cleanly and clearly throughout without ever being overwhelmed in the mix. The score also sounds rich and full-bodied, and D'Leh's first discovery of a ransacked village is preceded by such a devastating low-frequency pulse that it's sure to leave quite a few subwoofers bottoming out. No complaints at all.

Also included are Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks and subtitle streams in English, French, and Spanish.

Extras: This Blu-ray disc tosses on
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a couple of featurettes that didn't make the cut on the DVD, although none of the extras are in high definition.

"Inspiring an Epic" (13 min.) is told largely by Graham Hancock, the author of Fingerprints of the Gods who believes there may have been some sort of advanced civilization skulking the earth many thousands of years ago. The featurette's more about his theories than 10,000 B.C. itself, although he does tie several of his ideas into what's seen in the movie. "A Wild and Woolly Ride" (13 min.) focuses primarily on the look of 10,000 B.C., from set design on this location shoot to its digitally rendered prehistoric beasts to one of the largest and most intricate miniatures ever created.

The alternate ending (3 min.) is kind of a clunkier version of the epilogue that closes out 10,000 B.C., this time told partially in front of a campfire by the narrator. The only other extra is a ten minute reel of quick character moments that were yanked out of the movie, presumably just to tighten the pacing in its early stretches. A longer intro to the trap with the sabretooth tiger -- complete with unpolished CGI -- is about as close to action as it gets.

Tucked inside the case are codes for digital downloads, and both Windows Media and iTunes are supported.

Conclusion: Y'know, 10,000 B.C. isn't that bad. Yeah, it takes itself way too seriously, the few scattered stabs at action never really get the adrenaline pumping, and...well, it's got "From the director of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow" plastered above the title, so it's not even worth yammering on about the bland acting or underwritten script. At least 10,000 B.C. isn't boring -- that's gotta count for something -- and it's been long enough since Hollywood churned out a kinda-sorta caveman flick that it feels marginally more original than it really is.

I wouldn't shrug 10,000 B.C. off as the unwatchable trainwreck most other armchair critics are making it out to be. I don't exactly see myself yanking this Blu-ray disc off the shelf again anytime soon, no, but it's forgettable more than anything else. Rent It.
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