Thursday, March 13, 2008

10,000 BC - Emmerich's Apocalypto

10,000 BC (adventure)
Starring: Steven Strait, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis, Joel Virgel, Affif Ben Badra and Nathanael Baring

Director: Roland Emmerich
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? It looks like Roland Emmerich has taken Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” caper (based on a lost Maya civilisation) and transplanted it in Egypt. And if that’s not enough, Emmerich, who co-wrote the screenplay with Harald Kloser, also borrowed ideas from fables like Androcles And The Lion to beef up the plot. However, while “Apocalypto” had a fast pace, lots of chase thrills and a reasonably intelligent story, this one is highly derivative, predictable and many notches down the intellectual pole.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? Basically, it is about two men’s tussle over an exotic-looking, blue-eyed femme. D'Leh (Steven Strait), a young hunter of the Yagahl tribe, has set his heart on two targets – the blue-eyed Evolet (Camille Belle) and winning the coveted white spear in their last hunt of the woolly mammoth. He succeeds in both – only to lose Evolet and some of his friends to the ‘four-legged demons’ who are actually raiders on horseback. One of the raiders takes a liking to Evolet and wants her for himself. Like those of “Apocalypto”, these marauders abduct tribes to work on the pyramids near the Nile. Teaming up with his mentor Tic-Tic (Cliff Curtis), D’Leh trails Evolet’s captors to Egypt, encountering flesh-eating prehistoric swamp ostriches and other weird creatures (a’ la Jurassic Park” ) along the way.

Oh yes, D’Leh also has a run-in with a saber-tooth tiger, setting up the above-mentioned Androcles subplot which turns out rather contrived. According to the Old Mother (Mona Hammond) of the tribe, D’Leh and Evolet are destined to free their people from the clutches of the demons – and so we find D’Leh uniting the various down-trodden tribes of Africa against the slave merchants and temple priests.

HITS & MISSES: The moment you hear Omar Sharif’s opening voice-over mouthing trite like “Only time can teach us what is truth and what is legend”, you know you are in for a silly ride. Computer-generated magic provides limitless possibilities but Emmerich does not seem to capitalize on it to work up the suspense and mystery of the subject. In fact the music soundtrack seem to overpower and sometimes drown out the action, shot on location in New Zealand, South Africa and Namibia. Those looking for National Geographic-type beefcake and cheesecake scenes will be disappointed. There is no eye-candy here.

Also, the acting by the relatively unknown cast does little to keep us enthralled and there are times when we stop ourselves from laughing at the inane lines. The Yagahl clan converse in English while the other tribes speak foreign tongues – creating many cringe-worthy situations in their dialogue. However, Emmerich’s forte is sprawling epic-style sets and here the panoramic scenes are spectacular and breath-taking.

THE LOWDOWN: A tribute to Apocalypto and a cheap remake of One Million Years BC.


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