2008-03-13 / Dining & Entertainment

"10,000 B.C."

Directed by: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Steven Strait, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis, Nathanael Baring and Reece Ritchie

Rated: PG-13 (intense action and mostly bloodless violence)

Running time: 108 minutes

Best suited for: popcorn crunchers

Least suited for: those who grimace when cavemen (with perfect teeth) speak English

This silly, fun, slick, harmless quasi-historical epic hasn't the gripping adrenaline rush of "Apocalypto" or the mythological savvy of "Stargate"- two films that crossed my mind while viewing Roland Emmerich's ultrastylized and CGI-rich "10,000 B.C." It hasn't the animated panache of Peter Jackson's "King Kong" or the can't-take-your-eyes-off-him presence of Mel Gibson in "Braveheart" or Charlton Heston in "The Ten Commandments."

But I predict, when we're channel surfing for Saturday night eye candy a few years from now, torn between, let's say, the more intelligent "The Hours" and the more dramatic "The Queen," most of us will choose to watch "10,000 B.C."

Because it's this kind of silly, slick and harmless fun that sells movies. And I suspect "10,000 B.C." is money in the proverbial bank.

I'm not implying that "10,000 B.C." is a bad movie. But it's such a carefully honed, predictable film that it seems overtly cinemabythenumbers: Barelyoutofthecave boy meets girl, loses girl (honorably, of course), rescues girl and gains mythological immortality in the process. Meanwhile, a missing father, the father's bestfriendturnedmentor, a wise old sage woman and a host of snarling, more advanced, more numerous enemies thwart said cave boy- and every time those omnipresent mewling violins reach a crescendo, we know something of either tragic or heroic import is about to befall us.

We can set our watch to such action. I'd say about seven minutes between tragedies, interwoven with seven minutes between significant heroic revelations. If "10,000 B.C." were any more polished, the theater would be handing out sunglasses in the lobby. Its luster would be just too bright to watch without squinting.

What happens is this: A peaceful, turn of the Ice-Age village is overrun by barbarians, who take prisoners and kill a few folks for spite. Our hero, D'Leh (Steven Strait) is moping in the distance because he's given up the village cutie Evolet (Camilla Belle)- who's more or less the Angelina Jolie of the early Holocene Epoch.

D'Leh's given her up because he's cheated on his final exam, which consisted of killing a woolly mammoth and thus becoming the alpha hunter of his tribe.

To avenge his shame and regain his booty, D'Leh heads off over the frozen mountains in cold pursuit of the raiding party, accompanied by the tribal elder TicTac- sorry, Tic'Tic (Cliff Curtis).

Along the way . . . well, you know, alternately heroic and tragic things happen. Violins wail and cry. The World's First Hero (proclaims the film's trailers) encounters the World's First (saber-toothed) Pet. He learns important secrets from his mentor and discovers the principle of racial harmony.

And finally comes the interesting part. Because the evil slavers are unabashedly portrayed as preEgypt Egyptians, a trio of semibuilt pyramids hug the mouth of the presumed Nile.

A voice-over (by Omar Sharif) has already warned us that this magical, mythical kingdom has either been seeded by a lost race of intelligent folk driven from their sunken island (and that would be Atlantis) or have come from outer space (and those would be aliens from outer space).

Now anybody who's been glued to the History Channel lately (okay, I confess an addiction) has gleaned that some pyramids in Egypt might have been built before the Egyptians got there, maybe as early as 10,000 B.C. (not 3,000 B.C. as previously supposed). And since nobody in 2008 A.D. can surmise how a bunch of our prepneumaticpumpwielding ancestors could lay 200-ton blocks of stone with such incredible precision, some scholars have indeed suggested alien intervention.

The film, in fact, alludes to such otherworldly meddling, without saying so outright. But the evil empire's unseen ruler does have a strange preoccupation with the constellation Orion, so make of it what you will.

Personally, I would have liked to have seen more such tantalizing (heck, even if bogus) mythology- and one problem I have is that the film's too dang short. But I guess if that's my worst complaint, those existing 108 minutes must have proven somehow visually rewarding, wailing violin strings and all.

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