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Despite the horrid reception 10,000 BC has received from critics, there is one level on which the film works. The plot may be ludicrous, the acting even worse, and the pacing in turns manic and sluggish, but visually it is a masterpiece.
The story of Neanderthal D'Leh's (Steven Strait) dreadlocked quest to rescue his love (Camilla Belle) from pre-Egyptian slave-traders feels totally inconsequential compared to the vast array of eye-candy viewers are given to gorge on. The fact that it would be impossible for anyone, even a warrior as besotted with love as D'Leh is, to simply walk from tundra to rain forest to sub-Saharan desert in a matter of weeks isn't important. At least not when we have views of snow-capped peaks, lush greenery, and wind-swept dunes to distract us.
But these natural wonders are nothing compared to the computer-generated kind 10,000 (rated PG-13 for violence) offers. Not only does director Roland Emmerich render prehistoric animals that have long populated our nightmares in stunning detail-the saber-toothed tiger and wooly mammoth put in multiple appearances-he also gives us some that nobody's ever conceived of. (Giant warbling killer turkeys, anyone?) And just when we are full to indigestion on those sights comes the parade of African tribesmen in masks, piercings, and headdresses. At some point this smorgasbord of spectacle becomes so overwrought, it crosses over into insulting.
It is inconceivable that filmmakers as experienced as Emmerich and his team didn't know they were making a bad movie. No way they weren't aware that their actors were floating from American to English to Spanish accents and back again, or that there were holes in their plot big enough to drive a herd of mastodons through. The only logical conclusion is they didn't care, apparently believing that if they crammed enough shiny, expensive-looking things into it, audiences would turn up anyway. Unfortunately, 10,000 BC's $36 million take in its opening weekend proves they weren't wrong.