Review: The Davinci Code
10,000 BC (2008)
[PGP-13] Starring:
Steven Strait, Camilla Belle,Cliff Curtis, Joel Virgel,Affif Ben Badra, Mo Zainal, Nathanael Baring, Mona Hammond
Directed by:

Roland Emmerich

Written by:
Roland Emmerich  & Harald Kloser 

When his one-of-a-kind blue-eyed love interest is kidnapped, D'Leh (Steven Strait) must get her back, and fortunately, it’s not only preordained but has been communicated to all sorts of groups and tribes by various prophecies. Certainly he needs their help. He’s part of a small subsistence tribe of hunter gatherers who live on a treeless wind-swept obtain snow covered mountain slope.

Although the atlatl--a device for throwing spear-like darts--was the era's state-of-the-art weapon for killing mammoths, these plucky hunters are armed only with crude looking spears . While the hunt is supposedly a cooperative effort, the one who spears the mammoth’s heart gets the white spear (a sign of leadership) along with the one-of-a-kind blue-eyed girl—just the kind of reward system sure to foster cooperation.

Without an atlatl, the act of spearing a wooly mammoth in the heart is problematic at best. Aside from difficulties related to the beast’s size and power, the spear would needed to penetrate a thick hairy coat and several inches of blubber, not to mention somehow miss bones in the rib cage before it could do any real harm.

There’s a reason modern elephant rifles are chambered for cartridges with heavy, large-diameter, full metal jacketed bullets moving at fairly impressive speeds. They are the only bullets with enough momentum to penetrate deeply and enough kinetic energy and diameter to be capable of reliably downing a charging elephant with a single shot--assuming the hunter wants to live.

Even in modern times, hunters must sneak up fairly close in order to get a clear shot at an elephant. (There’s generally too much brush in the way for a distance shot.) Professional hunters often favor a double barrel rifle because these can be fired fast enough to get a follow-up shot in case the first one fails, but 2 shots is about the limit.

About the only way to kill an elephant or for that matter a wooly mammoth using only a spear would be to somehow disable it so that it couldn’t run away, then wound it enough times so that it eventually bleeds to death. The same basic technique was used by early whalers in small wooden boats. A harpoon would be used to attach a rope from the boat to the whale so that it could not escape when it tried to swim away. After exhausting the whale, the boat would eventually close to short range where a whaler with a lance would repeatedly spear the giant mammal until it died of blood loss.

In the movie, the hunters first sneak up on the herd of mammoths  then stampede the great beasts toward a rock formation. Do they send the mammoths careening over cliffs, run them into leg breaking pot holes, or carefully dug traps? Of course not, they trap one in a large-sized net.

The thrashing behemoth breaks free and runs away dragging the net along with several of the hunters still attached. All the hunters eventually let go of the net except D'Leh. He’s tangled in it. When he finally frees himself, he manages to get the mammoth speared in the heart but apparently wasn’t brave enough in the process. As a result he’s compelled to relinquish his rewards.

Spearing the mammoth in the heart when it’s helplessly trapped in a net and surrounded by hunters earns the title brave hero, the white spear, and blue-eyed-girl. Spearing it with no outside assistance when the mammoth is unconfined, enraged, and about to turn its attacker into a greasy spot on the tundra earns bubkiss. Worse than bubkiss, it earns a coward's derision. That’s some brilliant tribal logic sure to select the best possible leadership. Not to worry, however, the blue-eyed-girl gets kidnapped just in time for the hero to redeem himself.

But not before some romantic mumbo-jumbo between D'Leh and the girl about the North Star--shown glowing brightly near the horizon. Of course 12,000 years ago the current North Star was not positioned above the Earth's North Pole nor has it ever been as bright as depicted in the movie.

D'Leh  leads a few rag-tag hunters (now turned warriors) across an Alp-like mountain range following the kidnapers. For hunter-gatherers who live on mountain slopes, they’re very poorly attired. Okay, it is 10,000 BC, but tribal groups who live in cold climates usually develop sophisticated clothing technology, albeit based on materials at hand. Even today hand-crafted Inuit clothing made from animal skins stitched together with sinew is some of the best cold weather gear available. In 10,000 BC, similar technology could also have been available since it only required natural materials, time, and patience—in plentiful supply on long winter days.

After crossing the mountains, the plucky little band finds itself in Africa and subsequently raises a multi-tribal army then crosses a sand-dune-filled desert to attack the bad guys. The bad guys live on the banks of a river (the Nile?) in a highly-advanced culture with domesticated horses and mammoths, not to mention sailing ships, advanced engineering, iron weapons, metal armor, bow and arrows, etc., all helping support the construction of two massive pyramids and a sphinx.

We’re not shown the highly-advanced agricultural, irrigation, and food distribution system along with the boatbuilding, textile making, metal fabricating, woodworking, stone cutting, and numerous other crafts  required to support the building activities, however, we’re sure they must have been there. In fact, we're sure there must  have been a major city nearby to contain all the required inhabitants. Modern pictures of the pyramids suggest they're in the middle of an empty desert because that's the direction the cameras making the photographs are pointed. Point them the other way and it's clear the pyramids are at the edge of a major metropolis: Cairo.

The smaller solid gold pyramid, topping a bigger stone one in the movie, would have itself been a major engineering feat. First, the mold would have to be prepared and then several tons of gold would have to be melted and poured into the mold without breaking, distorting, or otherwise damaging it. If they didn't have their own system of mines, the bad guys would have needed to trade with other advanced cultures to get the gold. Of course, the same thing could be said about the iron used in their weapons and armor.

And where did the bad guys with all this advanced technology come from? Some say they came from the stars (spacemen) others from a land that sank (Atlantis). Wow, there's some penetrating scientific analysis which explains the existence of the numerous technologies that modern research says didn't arrive until thousands of years later. This includes all of the technologies mentioned above except domesticated mammoths. Modern research says they never existed.

With mammoths to pull stone blocks up the inclines used for pyramid building, we’re left wondering why the bad guys need so many illiterate unskilled slaves, but they certainly come in handy for D'Leh and his fearless army when it’s time to fight.

Poorly-armed forces have at times persevered over well-armed groups--Custer’s last stand--but it generally requires overwhelming numbers and inspired leadership along with dumb mistakes on the part of the well-armed forces. Slaves have at times risen against their masters such as the uprising of Roman slaves led by the gladiator Spartacus, but such uprisings have usually ended in total defeat. Highly-advanced cultures do eventually collapse, but it usually takes around a thousand years and a few outside forces like plagues, famines, and well-organized invading hoards.

By comparison, D'Leh’s army has just walked across the desert without proper desert attire or beasts of burden to carry supplies. On arrival, in order to avoid detection, they have had to hide for several days among the sand dunes with no apparent source of food . They are composed of vastly different tribal groups, no doubt with different battle tactics not to mention language barriers. They are armed only with crude spears against iron weapons, bow and arrows, etc. They have no maps or previous knowledge of the terrain. They have never trained, let alone fought together and are going up against professional soldiers. Yet, the even more poorly armed and disorganized slaves happily join in, swelling D'Leh’s otherwise badly outnumbered forces when they attack. Together they easily rout the entire bad guy culture. To celebrate, the victors destroy and burn everything in sight, so much for advanced civilization.

In the end D'Leh returns to his mountain side, blue-eyed girl in tow. He’s been given a handful of corn seeds by one of the Africans—never mind that corn is native to America not Africa. The seeds grow perfectly in his mountainous environment, ending the hunger of his people forever along with their need to hunt mammoths.

Even devoted credits watchers will feel like they’ve nearly watched a second (possibly more interesting) movie by the time the end-of-movie credits have scrolled by. The list of various digital artists and computer geeks (definitely a term of respect) is that long, but they deserve the recognition. It’s worth a trip to the big screen just to see the digitally rendered wooly mammoths. But that’s about it. What the movie lacks in bad movie physics it makes up for with illogic and improbabilities. As for the story, 10,000 BC is about as fresh and digestible as a nice thick 12,000 year old mammoth steak.


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