“From the director of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow”, the promos proclaim. Oh sure, they could namecheck The Patriot or Stargate or even Universal Soldier – but inasmuch as there’s a case to be made for Roland Emmerich as unsung (albeit somewhat hacky) auteur of the blockbuster age, it’s the apocalyptic trips to the brink of human extinction that he’ll be remembered for.
So there’s a pleasing symmetry in the director’s latest film taking it back to the pre-concrete streets. 10,000 BC packs an awful lot of pop-anthropological in-jokery into its two-hour runtime, much of it admirably spurious. It’s hard not to grin at a film that offers theories as to the spread of common language and tribal practise throughout the cradle of civilisation, but gives equal weight to the notion that these advances were only made possible because a human being made friends with a tiger the size of a freakin’ RV.
Eschewing the painfully vogue stylistic noodling of 300 (to which it’s nevertheless not dissimilar), but stopping short of anything as adventurously maverick as Apocalypto (as which it’s nevertheless pretty much the same damn movie), 10,000 BC maintains a pleasantly old-school restraint that you feel may serve it better in years to come. It’s also more pedestrian than those two movies, never really reaching the heights – or depths – of either.
Independence Day posited a society descending into complacency, as ripe for heavily-armed alien plunder as the Falklands. The Day After Tomorrow one-upped this thesis by making mankind the agent of its own potential demise. Does 10,000 BC, in depicting the moment The Average Guy learnt animal husbandry, astrological navigation, and agriculture, sow the seeds of those tragic flaws? Maybe so… but 12,000 years is a long period for the sequel to cover.