AERIAL SHOT of men wearing animal furs, walking, making their way across rocky snow-covered mountain tops. VOICE-OVER, a narrator tells of a legend about a girl with blue eyes. He follows this up with the observation that the details of a legend can become hazy or lost over time.
On this point, I tend to agree with him since what he has to say is already becoming a little hazy for me. He did say blue eyes, right? Is the narrator really still talking?
In the first few minutes of 10,000 BC, the film boldly establishes two main themes: people walking — and stupid dialogue. Old Mother, the wise woman of a caveman tribe, picks up where the narrator leaves off and pads out the legend/prophecy with some mumbo-jumbo of her own.
Old Mother: Four-legged demons will arrive one day and put an end to our world. But a hero, a warrior will rise and lead us to a new land.
Marauders on horses (the four-legged demons foretold in prophecy) eventually do turn up. The village is burnt to the ground, the young and healthy are taken captive, and the surviving cavemen are force-marched to the marauders’ homeland and made slaves.
In an effort to give credibility to the standard-issue bad guy dialogue, the marauders don’t speak caveman (which sounds a lot like belabored, broken English). Instead, they have their own language, which, unfortunately, means it must be read in subtitles.
The following is a close approximation of marauder-speak and its translation:
Marauder: Kash-nook noodock nic tay!
Translation: Blah blah blah blah blah.
While admittedly not a word-for-word translation, it captures the spirit of what’s being said.
Leaving the frigid land of unconvincing CGI mammoths far behind, the hero and three companions take off on foot after the marauders. Meanwhile, the filmmakers, believing they’ve hit upon the secret to an action-packed adventure story, relentlessly pound away with their cinematic one-two punch of walking and stupid dialogue.
Hero’s Young Friend: Why do you not carry the white spear?
Hero: Because I am not worthy. I lied. I cannot take the white spear.
Hero’s Wise Adviser: We must save your girlfriend with the blue eyes.
Even more walking.
A companion-who-is-not-in-the-film-but-it-would-be-nice-if-he-was: Man, my dogs are killing me. Can we take a break? All this freaking walking sucks.
After run-ins with giant flightless birds and a lame-looking saber-toothed tiger, the hero arrives on the outskirts of a desert where a tribe of prehistoric black warriors has patiently been awaiting the arrival of a Pasty White Guy from The North. The prophecy of the black warriors predicts that the Pasty White Guy will help free their fellow tribe members who have been enslaved by the marauders.
But even though the hero fits the bill, the prophecy’s fulfillment is put in jeopardy by a slight communication problem: the black warriors do not speak caveman or even subtitled bad guy. Instead, they speak black warrior lingo. By a happy coincidence (and some lazy screenwriting), it turns out that one of the black warriors does indeed speak caveman. (Take it from me — you don’t want to know. It’s a long story involving the hero’s dad who left the caveman tribe and was believed to be a coward, but wasn’t, and blah blah blah blah blah.)
At this point, the film grinds to a halt as the black warrior translates back and forth between the hero and the tribe’s wise man. For the first time, you get the feeling that maybe the filmmakers are questioning just how much stupid dialogue and walking can be crammed into one movie. Maybe rewrites were considered. Possibly someone floated the idea of a story with flesh-and-blood characters who do interesting and surprising things, instead of one where the fulfillment of portents passes for character development.
Ultimately, the disastrous decision is made to continue with the stupid dialogue and the walking. Still, in the filmmakers’ defense, it should be noted that they attempt to up the ante a bit by putting a slight twist on a couple of old ideas. If four white guys walking is unbeatable cinema, then a white guy with sixty black warriors following him, lost in a desert, walking and walking and walking, can’t miss. If endless stupid dialogue about one prophecy is great, then endless stupid dialogue about three prophecies (caveman, black warrior, marauder) is a sure thing.
The filmmakers even interrupt the climactic battle for a sort of blah-blah-blah throw-down between the good guys and the bad guys. You get caveman translated into bad guy, and bad guy into subtitles, which is then translated back into black warrior lingo, before it is translated once more into caveman and…
And it goes on and on and on.
Appropriately enough, after the marauders have been defeated and the slaves set free, the hero and his liberated tribesmen start on the long journey back to their icy homeland. On foot. One step at a time. Walking. Walking. Walking.
The narrator has some final thoughts, but by this time, even he’s blah-blahed out.