Sunday, May 25, 2008

Quest for 10,000 B.C.

My wife and I celebrated the long weekend by heading down to the Funhouse Theatres to see "10,000 B.C.," a bargain at $13 for the both of us, including large drinks and a bucket of popcorn.

Critics savaged the movie, with justice. But I got my two hours worth. The stampeding mammoths were enough payback for me.

Caveman epics have always held an odd fascination for me, and it was hard during this one not to keep thinking of the far superior "Quest for Fire." True, the mammoths in the earlier film looked pathetically like elephants with hair glued on them, but despite their grunting and bad teeth, "Quest" at least gives us early humans who act like something recognizably human, full of foibles and missteps but fundamentally well intentioned. "10,000 B.C." gives us characters that would have to await the invention of cardboard to become more well rounded.

Case in point: When the hero in "10,000 B.C." encounters a sabre-toothed tiger, he saves its life, and they become friends. When the heroes in "Quest" encounter a sabre-toothed tiger, they retreat to a tree, where they roost for days until the tiger gets bored and wanders off. Which of those scenarios sounds more like something human beings would do?

With a proto language developed by Anthony Burgess and gestures designed by anthropologist Desmond Morris, "Quest for Fire" made a serious attempt to put us inside the heads of people sort of like us who lived 80,000 years ago. "10,000 B.C." puts modern folk with dirty faces in dreadlocks and skins.

"Quest for Fire" ends when the tribes people learn about the missionary position and how to rub two sticks together. "10,000 B.C." ends when the tribes people manage to destroy a far more advanced civilization. "Quest" makes us feel a little more human, "10,000 B.C." a little less.


Ed Kemmick said...

"Quest for Fire" was a classic. You will recall, too, that by the time the tiger wandered off, the heroes had nearly stripped the leaves off the tree, the only edible things they could find.

I say if you want to watch a bad caveman movie, it should be so bad it's great, and I think the one with Ringo Starr (maybe it was called "Caveman") was great.

David said...

Some critics made the same point about "10,000 B.C." -- it would have been better if it had been a little worse. Not sure I agree. The earnestness of caveman epics is one thing about them that appeals to me.