A mix of vast CGI spectacle and small, silly moments, the prehistoric saga "10,000 BC" is an epic in name only.
Rather, the latest mind-numbing extravaganza from director Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day," "The Day After Tomorrow") feels more like a video game in film form.
Our dreadlocked, dirt-smudged hero, D'Leh (Steven Strait), must protect his Yagahl people from a variety of foes, including a pack of woolly mammoths, marauders on horseback, some angry ostrich-looking things and an enormous saber-toothed tiger. He also must rescue the love of his life, the mystical Evolet (Camilla Belle, looking weirdly like Lindsay Lohan being hounded by paparazzi), from the slave raiders who've kidnapped her.
The script from Emmerich and Harald Kloser (who also wrote the overbearing score) takes D'Leh and his fellow tribesmen (Cliff Curtis, Nathanael Baring, Mo Zainal) from one level to the next without building much momentum; the whole endeavor is actually quite a bore, leading up to the overblown, climactic showdown amid some half-built pyramids.
Some of the wide shots are dazzling (the film was shot in New Zealand, South Africa and Namibia) and there are a couple of thrilling moments here and there " the thunderous mammoth stampede, for example. (Conversely, the giant birds look so jerky and fake, they're like something out of a Ray Harryhausen movie.)
But this is otherwise a slice of history you'd like to forget. Considering how superficially the characters are drawn, it won't be hard.
Strait, who played a bad-boy warlock at a New England boarding school in "The Covenant" and a bad-boy musician with a heart of gold in "Undiscovered," pouts and broods and, when the time comes, channels his inner Mel Gibson to rally his troops. And that's about it. Belle, who co-starred alongside Daniel Day-Lewis in the melancholy "The Ballad of Jack and Rose," has piercing blue eyes and looks pretty in danger. And that's about it.
Much of the trouble also comes from the clunky, often anachronistic dialogue. No one says anything along the lines of: "Lana, zug-zug," as they did in the 1981 Ringo Starr comedy "Caveman," but you almost wish they would.
As D'Leh (which rhymes with delay) helps a giant tiger who's trapped beneath some logs in a cave, he says to the creature: "Do not eat me when I set you free." When the leader of a black tribe sizes him up with disdain before they join forces in battle, D'Leh says to a translator, "Tell him I am older than I look."
Even the subtitles are too colloquial. As one bad guy reaches for a knife, another bad guy says to him: "Just try it."
Then again, as Kloser says in the film's production notes, "Roland and I never intended for '10,000 BC' to be a documentary."
"10,000 BC," a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence. Running time: 109 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.