Pharyngula

Roland Emmerich: the upscale Uwe Boll

I’ve been seeing all the ads for this new movie, 10,000 BC, but I haven’t even been tempted to want to think about going to see it. Come on, people: One Million Years B.C., while even more grossly inaccurate, at least had Raquel Welch in that adorable bikini, and Quest for Fire had the invention of the missionary position. This movie has nothing but nicely modeled woolly mammoths, and I don’t see any teenagers stampeding the head shops for that poster to hang on their bedroom walls.

Anyway, here’s a review of the latest dreck from Emmerich. That’s as close as I’m getting to it.

Comments

  1. #1 Sastra
    March 8, 2008

    Coincidently, I just finished reading the excellent book Archaelogical Fantasies: How Pseudoarcheology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public. Garrett Fagan edits it, and it’s got essays by Feder, Levitt, Sokal, and a bunch of other hard-nosed skeptics. They bemoan movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark — I can imagine that this movie will practically make their heads explode.

    There are several chapters which deal with understanding the signs, motivations, and attraction of “alternative” views of history, and from what I can tell almost everything they mention applies equally to pseudosciences like creationism. People like to feel that they’ve “discovered” insights that the so-called “experts” have missed, because education and knowledge close the mind to other possibilities.

    From the description, it looks like a good movie to avoid. I have no problem suspending belief — but this sounds like a mess. I like archaeology.

  2. #2 Amit Joshi
    March 8, 2008

    I think Caveman, starring Ringo Starr, Shelley Long and Barbara Bach was the ultimate in the prehistoric genre anyway.

  3. #3 Richard Eis
    March 8, 2008

    So from the review…boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back after 1 and a half hours (plus adverts).
    So hollywood please do explain why:
    A: This is different to the 1 million other movies you produced
    b: Why I should care enough to go see this.
    c: Why some people seem to think thats its not the pirates that are the ones suffocating the movie industry but is in fact caused by some other possibly unknown force….hmmm…

  4. #4 dcwp
    March 8, 2008

    Yup, I just got back from the movie. Terrible but lots of fun.

    As an archaeologist, it’s part of my job description to see these movies. I inevitably get questions from students who mistake them for documentaries so it pays to be prepared. In the next few weeks, I’m sure I’ll have to explain that in fact there is very little evidence for mammoths being involved in the construction of the pyramids.

    In general I try not to be too serious about these movies. If they’re well-made and fun I’d rather they be absurdly inaccurate like 10,000 BC than subtly misleading like Apocalypto. Indiana Jones probably does far more harm to the reputation of archaeologists than this movie, but I still love those movies because they are fun and well made.

  5. #5 Carl Buell
    March 8, 2008

    Actually PZ, the Mammoths aren’t that well modeled and are about twice the size they should be for Woollies and are even much too large for the earlier M. trogontherii. And they gallop! Ditto for the sabertooth I’ve seen in the ads. Hollywood it seems isn’t satisfied with 9 inch sabers, they need to be a foot and a half to appear dangerous. Maybe all the people are supposed to 4 foot 9? It still might be visually stunning.

  6. #6 Colin
    March 8, 2008

    A.O. Scott’s review is nicely done.

    http://movies.nytimes.com/2008/03/07/movies/07ten.html

  7. #7 Gustaf Sj÷blom
    March 8, 2008

    I’m a bit perplexed about this blog entry, have this movie been advertised in any way as being even remotely factual?

    (If the answer is yes then ignore the rest of this post)

    The (very limited) marketing from this movie that I’ve seen has gotten me to think that it is a 100% fictional make believe, kind of like Lord of the Rings. Elves don’t fit well into biology either but I haven’t heard anyone complain about that particular aspect of the trilogy. :P

    Even if some ignorant whack-head teachers take kids to this movie to get educated in earth history I would not start to blame the movie in any way, it would all fall on the teacher.

    Now granted, you haven’t really said anything like this in your blog, but if you don’t think anything like it I don’t really see why you even bring the topic up. Except obviously if you simply dislike the fantasy genre and like to demonstrate it.

  8. #8 Gustaf Sj÷blom
    March 8, 2008

    I’m a bit perplexed about this blog entry, have this movie been advertised in any way as being even remotely factual?

    (If the answer is yes then ignore the rest of this post)

    The (very limited) marketing from this movie that I’ve seen has gotten me to think that it is a 100% fictional make believe, kind of like Lord of the Rings. Elves don’t fit well into biology either but I haven’t heard anyone complain about that particular aspect of the trilogy. :P

    Even if some ignorant whack-head teachers take kids to this movie to get educated in earth history I would not start to blame the movie in any way, it would all fall on the teacher.

    Now granted, you haven’t really said anything like this in your blog, but if you don’t think anything like it I don’t really see why you even bring the topic up. Except obviously if you simply dislike the fantasy genre and like to demonstrate it.

  9. #9 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    March 8, 2008

    I am taking my son to the movie tomorrow and don’t expect much to be accurate except possibly the color of the sky. I’ll sit back, eat my cheesy-poofs and laugh at the appropriate times and then promptly forget about the movie after it is over.

  10. #10 amk
    March 8, 2008

    James Berardinelli also also reviewed the film, and also disliked it.

  11. #11 Robert
    March 8, 2008

    What? Emmerich isn’t upscale compared to Uwe Boll. Nobody upscales the Greatest Director of All TimeTM, Uwe Boll. I just can’t wait for Uwe Boll to create a medieval fantasy movie that has a car chase with a drug dealer.

  12. #12 Matt
    March 8, 2008

    Forgive me PZ but did the makers of ’10,000 BC’ ever say anything other than it being fictitious? Do all movies have to carry a disclaimer tag now? Is Star Wars a dreadful movie because it too is realistic?

  13. #13 QrazyQat
    March 8, 2008

    Gustaf,
    Elves fit perfectly well into the world Tolkien said they lived in; their background and creation was fully in synch with the rest of the world. This movie is supposed to fit somewhere in the world of our past. It doesn’t come close. If they wanted to create a fantasy, just do a Xena or Conan the Babarian or Kull the Conqueror thing and have at it — then no complaints.

  14. #14 windy
    March 8, 2008

    Elves fit perfectly well into the world Tolkien said they lived in; their background and creation was fully in synch with the rest of the world. This movie is supposed to fit somewhere in the world of our past.

    So is Tolkien’s world, but it’s a magical past, and at least LOTR wasn’t called “4,000 BC” ;)

  15. #15 GodlessHeathen
    March 8, 2008

    Ahhhh… Quest for Fire. The movie that says: If you think sex is a pain in the ass, you’re probably doing it wrong.

    Sadly, I think it would be helpful if movies that wrap their plots in a historical theme did have a little reminder at the beginning that it’s really all fiction against a backdrop.

    Then we wouldn’t have folks beaming with pride at how those brave American sailors captured that Enigma Machine off that u-boat.

  16. #16 Gregory Kusnick
    March 8, 2008

    Forgive me PZ but did the makers of ’10,000 BC’ ever say anything other than it being fictitious? Do all movies have to carry a disclaimer tag now?

    “The Other Boleyn Girl” is fiction too, but if they get historical details wildly wrong, they should expect to take some heat for it. So should Roland Emmerich and “10,000 BC”.

    And yes, I think movies like this ought to carry a disclaimer saying, “This story is pure, made-up hokum. The filmmakers have no knowledge of or respect for the actual facts of prehistory.”

  17. #17 Steve Ulven
    March 8, 2008

    And if I am not mistaken… The trailer had full tails on the Saber Toothed Tiger (Smiledon). The Smiledon had a short tail. Not a long tail like our current big kitties.

  18. #18 Phil
    March 8, 2008

    Has anyone noticed that cavemen are only white anglos? And that the effete yet sadistic foreign type are much darker? Apparently Aleuts never existed. I await Iron Man and Indiana Jones with bated breath.

  19. #19 gg
    March 8, 2008

    dcwp: “In the next few weeks, I’m sure I’ll have to explain that in fact there is very little evidence for mammoths being involved in the construction of the pyramids.”

    You reminded me of this old SNL skit:

    SNL skit
    :)

  20. #20 MAJeff, OM
    March 8, 2008

    gg, that was way too close to some class periods I’ve had before. *twitch*

  21. #21 Brownian, OM
    March 8, 2008

    Both Gustav and Matt are completely out to lunch, and probably the stupidest human beings I’ve ever encountered.

  22. #22 zayzayem
    March 8, 2008

    I saw this on Friday. I thought it wasn’t too bad of a movie.

    Yes completely and almost insanely historically innacurate, but it was a half decent epic fantasy story following normal hero formula.

    I was actually impressed they used killer birds over reptillian raptors, the greatest boob was the mammoths helping build the pyramids. I don’t think 10,000 BC has ever tried to pass itself of as realistic, and should be thought of as about as historic as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but with a slightly more empathetic plot.

    Far from the suspend-belief being the downturn of this movie, this movie suffered from a choppy narrative (kept switching back to home base to watch some medicine women have epilepsy), stupid childish gags (nut cracking), and some really shocking camera work (complete pallette shifts between frames), not to mention a jaw dropping anti-climax.

  23. #23 Mold
    March 8, 2008

    Once you get past the age of seven, you should have a very strong notion that all movies are fiction. These photoplays are entertainment. Historical accuracy is only done to add to the boffo.

  24. #24 Nomad
    March 8, 2008

    The mere fact that the movie is named after a very specific time period in the Earth’s past suggests that they’re claiming some sort of historical accuracy. There are any number of possible names that they could have given it that wouldn’t imply faithfulness to a specific time period.

    It was sort of a relief to have read this review. I’d seen commercials for the movie and couldn’t figure out what the hell was supposed to be going on. I really have no interest in shelling out ten bucks to watch yet another CG extraveganza action fest, but the bizarre world depicted in the commercials was bothering me because I kept hoping that there was some logical explanation for what going on in it.

    So now I know that there is no explanation. Woolly mammoths building the fricking pyramids. Lovely.

    It’s not that it’s a cardinal sin to depict anything inaccurately in a movie, it’s that they could have done it better. If you’re going to take animals from different time periods and throw them in with human civilization from different time periods AGAIN and mix them all together on an amalgamation of two different god damned continents, at least attempt to explain why everything is so messed up.

    I was hoping that there’d be some sort of beginning explanation that told how some a chronological mixup (perhaps the result of an experiment gone bad) messed up the planet, destroyed modern civilization, and brought back a bunch of long extinct animals. With such an admittedly cliched plot you could at least accept the existence of a combination of different levels of human civilization existing side by side in the wrong places at the wrong times.

    But I can’t accept the writers just saying “to hell with it, the American public is too ignorant of the past and of geography to even know about all that, so we’ll throw it all together and they’ll love us for it”.

  25. #25 Colugo
    March 8, 2008

    Best anthropological movie ever: Krippendorf’s Tribe. It’s not about the subject matter of anthropology; it’s about anthropologists and academia.

    Raiders of the Lost Ark, Clan of the Cave Bear, Osmosis Jones, The Animal, Encino Man, The Day After Tomorrow: not entirely realistic? I’m scandalized.

  26. #26 rimpal
    March 8, 2008

    PZ you are closer to the cre(a)ti(o)n(ist)s than you realize. They are going to quote mine you on this.

    So goes one creo article,

    “It can’t be. We know the earth is 6,000 years old. 10,000 B.C. is impossible.” Says PZ Myers the famous Darwinist atheist biologist, “Here’s a review and that’s as close as I’m getting to it.”

  27. #27 Freddy the Pig
    March 8, 2008

    The Calgary Herald headlined their review with:
    “10000 B.C. is Yabba Dabba Dumb”

    CBC Calgary’s reveiwer was unimpressed by the mammoths – she said they looked like the producer was cutting costs on the CGI.

  28. #28 Gregory Kusnick
    March 9, 2008

    The fact that it’s fiction doesn’t excuse sloppy writing. Expecting moviegoers to check their brains at the door isn’t artistic license; it’s laziness and a failure of imagination. Movies like this are the Huckabees of the entertainment world, ignorant and proud of it, and every ticket sold is a vote for more of the same. No thanks.

  29. #29 dogmeatib
    March 9, 2008

    And it pains me to say this, but Apocalypto is a freakin masterpiece of scientific accuracy compared to 10,000 BC.

    Wow, this made my blood run cold.

  30. #30 autumn
    March 9, 2008

    Realism isn’t what the negative reviwers are asking for, just consistency and resonable suspension of disbelief.
    One of the all time great uses of accuracy in one part of a film aiding the suspension of disbelief later is in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, where the director is careful through almost the entire movie to make a point of the heroes having to tediously reload their pistols after every six shots, just so the audience fails to notice the thirty round revolvers they use in the climax.

  31. #31 defectiverobot
    March 9, 2008

    This isn’t a site that argues the historical accuracy of movies, so it probably won’t have a review of 10,000 B.C., but it does shred bad movie physics: http://www.intuitor.com/moviephysics.

    It’s a lot of fun.

    I’m still waiting for their review of Sunshine, though.

  32. #32 jeh
    March 9, 2008

    Independence Day despite all its cheeziness was the director’s high point.

  33. #33 Rick R
    March 9, 2008

    I worked on the visual effects for “Day After Tomorrow” (New York insta-freeze and all that), and PZ’s characterization of Emmerich as the “upscale Uwe Boll” isn’t far off. Although Roland IS a more competent director than Boll (so is my cat) and Emmerich is a friendly, mostly easy going guy.

    But accuracy? Please.

    One of my best memories of “Day After” was after a big test screening, Emmerich had to do a major recut because the audience didn’t understand why Jake Gyllenhaal and buddies were running in panic toward the end. “What, they’re running from clouds? I don’t get it”. So things changed a bit at the last minute.

    It sounds like “10,000 B.C.” is as “scientifically and historically accurate” as DAT, which was a serious cautionary tale inspired by a book by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber- 2 icons of rationality.

    I like the comparison to Huckabee, though.

  34. #34 rpenner
    March 9, 2008

    Has anyone noticed that cavemen are only white anglos? And that the effete yet sadistic foreign type are much darker? Apparently Aleuts never existed. I await Iron Man and Indiana Jones with bated breath.

    Seen it.

    We have Good Guys:
    Tan Europeans in dreadlocks,
    White pygmies and/or children,
    Various Africans partitioned by tribal adoption of costume and tattoos.

    We have the bad guys:
    Middle Eastern dudes in short turbans,
    Asian Priestly dudes of the portly/eunuch stereotype,
    Blind pale servants — I think this is a makeup job and not necessary a tribal group,
    And “The Almighty” who is some old white dude who maybe came from the stars and maybe came from Atlantis

  35. #35 Brian O'C
    March 9, 2008

    My 16 yr old saw it today with uncle. He loved it and said as exciting as Star Wars. Mmm…maybe I’ll go see it now.

  36. #36 andyo
    March 9, 2008

    What? The director of Independence Day and Godzilla is making bad movies now?

    I gotta say, when I saw the adverts, I didn’t think it was gonna be accurate at all, but I was hoping for a Peter Jackson director credit or something like that. Then I saw “The director of ID4 and Godzilla”. The fact that they chose those movies to advertise this one tells me enough about it.

  37. #37 AlanWCan
    March 9, 2008

    As an archaeologist, it’s part of my job description to see these movies.
    As biologists we run into that a lot…except with people mistaking the Flintstones for a documentary.

  38. #38 Christophe Thill
    March 9, 2008

    What, I thought the hero was the sabertooth. I thought the title meant “10,000 big cats”, which would have been awesome. I’m hugely disappointed that the movie is actually about a puny human with small teeth and no retractable claws.

  39. #39 Greg G
    March 9, 2008

    There needs to be a new word for the subspecies of troll that turns up these days every time a blogger or reviewer says a film, in their opinion, may not be any good (for whatever reason).

    Their sole argument seems to be endless variations of “Yeah? Well, they weren’t even TRYING to be good, so there!”

  40. #40 Matt
    March 9, 2008

    “Both Gustav and Matt are completely out to lunch, and probably the stupidest human beings I’ve ever encountered.” Brownian OM

    I can’t speak for Gustav, but you raise an interesting point there, Brownian. Allow me to retort. You are probably the rudest human being I’ve ever encountered. Ok?

  41. #41 Matt
    March 9, 2008

    You can’t call someone stupid just because they hold a different opinion on a fictional film. That’s just rude and childish.

  42. #42 Ba'al
    March 9, 2008

    Does the chick with blue eyes that I’ve seen in the trailers get naked? If so, I may go anyway.

  43. #43 Brian W.
    March 9, 2008

    Complaining that a movie like this doesn’t have a great plot, great acting or historical accuracy is like complaining that Shrek didn’t have enough nudity in it. Why would it?

  44. #44 g_scott
    March 9, 2008

    A friend’s succinct review: It was “Joanie loves Chaka”

    Almost worth the price of a(matinee)admission to see the previews – The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Get Smart, The Happening, and SPEED RACER!

  45. #45 Joe Blow
    March 9, 2008

    So when was the last time Hollyweird was “accurate” about anything, historically, scientifically or otherwise? Were we suddenly expecting a breakthrough from an industry dominated by such deep thinkers as Barbra Streisand and Michael Moore, and which gave us such epics as Titanic and Pearl Harbor?

  46. #46 MAJeff, OM
    March 9, 2008

    isn’t there something about insipidity? Blow is mega.

  47. #47 Joe Blow
    March 9, 2008

    isn’t there something about insipidity?

    …which you have just demonstrated.

    Blow is mega.

    I prefer to thing of myself as being more of a taro than a mega.

  48. #48 James
    March 9, 2008

    I was just thinking about the whole politically correct BC=BCE and AD=CE thing and how christians can get offended by the removal of god. So I was thinking about what it would be like if it were based on islam, which led me to before muhammed or BM, this was as far as I got before I began laughing uncontrollably. In fact it would almost be worth it to adopt that just to have a wealth of toilet humor available.

  49. #49 Brownian, OM
    March 9, 2008

    I can’t speak for Gustav, but you raise an interesting point there, Brownian. Allow me to retort. You are probably the rudest human being I’ve ever encountered. Ok?

    Oh, come on. This is the internet. When is anything written here considered factual? Do I need to start writing disclaimers now?

    The Gustav and Matt I was referring to are completely fictitious, just like Obiwan, Bilbo Baggins, and all the people living on earth 10,000 years BC.

    Why, for actual people named Matt or Gustav to get bent out of shape over something written on the internet would be about as silly as someone writing a post about inaccuracies in certain movies.

  50. #50 Colugo
    March 9, 2008

    Emmerich’s acknowledged inspirations are Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods (pseudo-archaeology) and Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age (fantasy fiction), which both have advanced civilizations at 10,000 BC and earlier. The notion of a lost ur-civilization also appears in Emmerich’s Stargate and other movies, including Alien vs. Predator and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Other examples of historical fantasy are Illuminati conspiracy movies and The 13th Warrior.

    What some are perturbed by is that the promotion of the movie, including the title, is more suggestive of historical fiction (fictitious events within an accurate era) rather than historical fantasy (fictitious events in a fantastical era), which it clearly is. And they are concerned that impressionable people, especially kids, will get confused and think that 10,000 BC is based in archaeological and paleoanthropological reality. That would not be an issue if there were dinosaurs in the trailer or a recognizable fantasy character (such as Conan) was the story’s protagonist.

  51. #51 dwarf zebu
    March 9, 2008

    As an archaeologist, it’s part of my job description to see these movies. I inevitably get questions from students who mistake them for documentaries so it pays to be prepared.

    I am envious because I don’t have a legitimate excuse to see this movie. I’m going to see it anyway for the CGI creatures. There’s a compelling fascination for me in seeing extinct animals brought to life which is why I’ve seen everything from “One Million Years B.C.” to “Jurassic Park 3.”

    I just put them in the category of “guilty pleasure.”

    And besides, I can wait until it comes to the local discount, second-run theater.

  52. #52 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 9, 2008

    Joe Blow, compared with 10,000 — or even Apocalypto –, Michael Moore certainly is a deep thinker.

    Did you ever see Bowling for Columbine?

  53. #53 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 9, 2008

    Joe Blow, compared with 10,000 — or even Apocalypto –, Michael Moore certainly is a deep thinker.

    Did you ever see Bowling for Columbine?

  54. #54 Stephanie
    March 10, 2008

    #4
    I was defining heat transfer via radiation for a group of third graders as part of Kidsvision! (I would like someday to meet and strangle whoever came up with that year’s syllabus) when we were sidetracked by a discussion of “what celestial bodies actually are.”

    One little girl, very clever in all other respects, was convinced I was lying to them all because my description of the sun didn’t jibe with what she’d learned from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

    Not to say anything against the show, there’s a really hilarious season one episode about the perils of credulity and confirmation bias involving a fortune teller named Madame Wu (I saw it while babysitting, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), but for a while I couldn’t hear the name without twitching.

  55. #55 Ichthyic
    March 10, 2008

    rating:

    7% on rottentomatoes.

    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/10000_bc/

    ’nuff said.

  56. #56 Rey Fox
    March 10, 2008

    It seemed to me that using “10,000 B.C.”, a year pretty well outside of recorded history, as the title, pretty much lets them off the hook as far as accuracy goes. But maybe this will just be the proof of “So And So’s Law”, no matter how ridiculously you exaggerate things for effect, some people will still think you’re being serious.

  57. #57 ScottS-M
    March 10, 2008

    nicely modeled woolly mammoths

    You keep hearing about the nice CGI but I didn’t think they were all that special. You only get birds, a tiger and mammoths (and not much of the first two). They seemed about on par with Discovery channel shows (not to put Discovery down but I expect a bit more from a Hollywood budget). The tiger in the dark and the birds when you couldn’t see them were pretty good but once they gave a clear view, both looked like pretty much like obvious computer graphics. The mammoths weren’t bad but they had them gallop. It’s amazing they didn’t even bother to check how elephants move. Although not that amazing since they did pretty much the same thing with the history.

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