Oh dear, Roland Emmerich. Let’s get right to the primary question plaguing this movie, which is WHY? WHY would anyone think this was a good idea, or something anyone wanted to see? I can just imagine Emmerich, the impresario behind The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day [as well as the dreadful The Patriot], wondering what kind of spectacle could stand out from every other spectacle, and deciding that maybe moving back rather than forward in time to mine new thrills. The problem is, however, then one must overcome the inherent stupidity of movies about early hominids. Oh, oh dear.
Okay! So this dude De’Leh [pronounced Delay, which had me thinking of Tom DeLay through the entire film] who is this strapping young buck with pseudo-dreadlocks who wants to win the big white spear which carries with it implications of leadership, but first he must prove himself on the mammoth hunt. The movie has clearly spaced-out set-pieces, and it’s clear that the mammoths have been awarded the “opening spectacle” slot. There’s a big hunt, and Delay [let’s just call him that] kills the mammoth on his own by inducing it to fall on his spear, which is a perfectly acceptable way to kill it, as far as I’m concerned, and considered a very good way for a single person to kill an attacking bear in the present day, but somehow it’s just not enough for Delay, who has higher ideals of courage. So he passes on the big spear and gives it to his best friend. He also gives up rights to his childhood sweetheart Emmellet [or something] who has the blank, blue-eyed stare of a neolithic Lindsay Lohan, played by an actress who seems incapable of conveying that she’s thinking anything beyond “Like, oh my God!”
In here we have time to wonder why these natives, who live at a high altitude with snow all around, are so scantily-clad. There’s also a bit of backstory that Delay’s dad abandoned the tribe a while ago to drive around in hot convertibles with his secretary. No, I never quite understood, but you can bet that it was supposed to be heroic or, like, something. Then the soothsayer [who looks like a grown-up cabbage patch doll who got briefly lost in Micronesia, starts having visions of “Four-legged demons” which are, disappointingly, just men on horseback. Wouldn’t you know the four-leggd demons show up right soon, and guess what: They’re ARABS! Let’s be embarrassed for Mr. Emmerich, since he clealry has lost that capacity for himself. The Arabs steal a bunch of people, including the lovely Emmellet, which causes Delay to gather up a group of folks to journey off to retreive her. And thus the plot is set in motion.
You might be surprised to learn that there’s a sweltering rainforest right next to the freezing cold altitudes where Delay and his dumb friends choose to live—and might be further surprised to find out that there’s a vast sandy desert right next to that. So why don’t Delay and his pals live in the rainforest, where there’s like, you know, FOOD? Maybe it’s because of the killer ostriches. Knowledge of these, I must confess, became my primary draw to see this movie. KILLER MOTHERFUCKING OSTRICHES. They move and act a lot like the raptors of Jurassic Park, but that’s fine. It’s just that we don’t really ever get a good look at one. If Emmerich wants to mine new thrills, I suggest he follow this path toward unusual killer animals. Killer ducks, perhaps? Marmosets? How about a marauding race of homicdal bushbabies?
So after they're attacked by the giant ostriches, they come out of the rainforest and into the dry, sandy desert. After some long walk there they find this African village, and Delay falls into this big hole, miraculously missing all the giant spikes there sticking straight up, and find that there's a trapped saber-toothed tiger there, on the verge of drowning as the pit fills up with rain from the desert deluge [?]. At this point I leaned over to my friend and said "He's going to free the tiger and then they're going to be best friends." He frees it, the tiger smells him, and takes off. My friend then leaned over and said "You're so smart." Then, like one minute later, the whole tribe is all narked at these newcomers, and the tiger shows up again, sniffing Delay but not killing him. This proves that Delay is the "chosen one" that the Africans have been waiting for, because they have some cave drawing somewhere that says the dude who's best friends with the tiger is going to lead them to freedom or some such. I hope you liked the 35 seconds of saber-toothed tiger you've gotten, by the way, because, despite its featured presence on the poster, that's all you get of him in the whole movie. I thought he should have come back at the end and killed at least one person, but you know how movies rip you off these days.
So because Delay is chill with the saber-toothed tiger, he's elected to be the savior, and he decides that they have to unite all their various tribes and go stand up to the bad guys, who are busy using slaves to build the pyramids. That's why they took Delay's buddies, to be slaves. I was all like "So then where's Moses? Where's Cleopatra?" But apparently, according to the IMDb, this movie is trying to be CONTROVERSIAL in suggesting that the pyramids were actually built like WAY before the Egyptians came on the scene, and that the Sphinx originally had a lion's head. I'm sure this controversy continues to rage in your town, and had probably resulted in not a few bar fights if not outright violent homicides over its shockingly explosive premise.
So Delay and the united tribes of Benetton all march through the desert in scenes cribbed directly from Lawrence of Arabia, and finally reach the big pyramids. Around now, by the way, is when the snickers in my audience turned into outright laughter—not at anything in particular, just the general loopiness of the whole enterprise—searing controversies notwithstanding. I don't think I'm even going to bother describing anything after this, as I'm sure you can guess at it all anyway by doing what Emmerich does: combining parts from other, better movies. I will tell you that there was a part that made me write in my notes "Hey, did you guys know that you have little buns strapped to your heads?" and another, a few minutes later, that made me write "Hey, did you guys know that you have giant marshmallows stuck to your chins?" And oh no, you have NOT seen the last of the cabbage patch-like soothsayer woman… those little intercut scenes of her looking all worried and stuff are just building up to the big finale that is sure to leave you dry heaving with excitement!
My friends and I went expecting dumb fun, and while that's what we got, it definitely could have been more fun. It was fine, it's exactly what you expect—except lamer—and the whole thing is just so all-round silly you can't take it seriously. There are some strangely bizarre and interesting visuals and you probably won't be bored, though I doubt you'll be swept away or moved either. I think wanting to laugh at it is a much better reason to see it than expecting it'll be good. Bring your friends and sneak in a bunch of hard liquor and you'll be fine.
Bring friends, booze and a cruel desire to mock and debase.