Summer may be mindless-blockbuster season, but it’s got nothing on March, newly crowned home of gleefully brain dead movies with a “myth-torical” vibe: Last year, March spawned the massively successful 300, set in ancient—all together now—SPARTA! This year, it’s 10,000 B.C., a silly but ultimately winning popcorn flick set in an era in which saber-tooth tigers and big ugly birds roamed the earth and everyone wore dreadlocks—if not according to paleontologists, at least according to the filmmakers.
The plot is hero quest 101: When a band of slave-traders capture his woman and other members of his dwindling mountain tribe, a young man named D’Leh (Steven Strait) must lead a rescue party, and unbeknownst to him, prove himself worthy of an ancient prophesy in order to save mankind. No pressure.
With its reverential voiceover narration (courtesy of Omar Sharif), dialogue of the “we must save our people” variety and moody score, 10,000 B.C. starts off as an earnest, pre-historic Lord of the Rings. But any pretense of depth quickly dissipates—and the movie, with its increasingly preposterous plot and CGI cast-of-thousands, is better off for it. The rescuers move through an increasingly unlikely landscape that looks like a mash-up of all five continents: snowcapped mountains somehow give way to a rainforest which gives way to a scrub which turns into desert, in what seems like a matter of minutes. The big birds appear and clumsily attack people, and director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla), clearly angling to bond the audience with the no-name cast, pads the action with sight-gags and enough hamming to guarantee cheap laughs and we’re-on-your-side claps.
Despite the pandering, there is enough to genuinely like in the movie, especially if you’re not white: Just about all the good guys—from D’Leh and his multi-culti band of brothers to the black tribes that help him save his love (played by Brazilian Camilla Belle) and the thousands that have been enslaved by a guy passing himself off as a god—have melanin to spare. Take that, lily-white Lord of the Rings, where all the bad guys were black and brown! And of course, the special effects are good: from the trailers and posters, you’ll go in thinking the mammoths are the stars of the CGI show, but trust us, they’re just the tip of the primordial iceberg.