The year is self-evident and the locale is the remote Valley of the Yagahl, where each year a tribe of hardscrabble hunters trap and kill one of the giant wooly mammoths that each migrate through their valley. But a great change is afoot: The mammoths no longer appear as often as they once did (global warming, pehaps?) and Old Mother (Mona Hammond), the aged Yagahl matriarch who speaks to the spirits and foretells the future, has had a frightening vision of the future. A final hunt will soon be upon them, at which time "four-legged demons" will invade the valley and put an end to the world as they know it. But the Yagahl's destiny is not without hope. Old Mother has also foreseen that Evolet (Grayson Hunt Urwin), the blue-eyed girl-child whom the Yagahl found clinging to her slaughtered mother in a burned-out settlement, will join with a great hunter-turned-warrior and herald in a new era of plenty. Time passes and the year of the final hunt Old Mother has prophesized finally arrives. D'Leh (Steven Strait), a hunter living under a cloud of shame ever since his father (Kristian Beazley) inexplicably abandoned the valley and his people when D'Leh was just a child, fells the annual mammoth more by accident than skill, and earns the right to carry the sacred white spear and woo the woman of his choice: the now-grown Evolet (Camilla Belle). D'Leh's victory, however, is soon overshadowed by the arrival of the four-legged devils -- brutal marauders on horseback. The raiders, led by the evil One-Eye (Marco Khan) and his boss (Ben Badra), decimate the village and kidnap many of the survivors -- including Evolet -- to serve as slaves in a distant land. D'Leh, his rival Ka'ren (Mo Zainal), tribe leader Tic'Tic (Cliff Curtis) and young tagalong Baku (Nathanael Baring) bravely venture forth to rescue the captives, climbing snowy peaks, bushwhacking their way through thick jungle and trekking across scorching deserts -- terrain fraught with sabertooth tigers and killer dodos -- into a strange new world of pyramids and wicked men who rule as gods.
"History" here has more to do with all the older movies (not to mention books by Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard and Jules Verne) Emmerich and co-screenwriter Harald Kloser raided for ideas, and they get themselves off the accuracy hook by having narrator Omar Sharif introduce the film by intoning that sometimes legend is more enduring than fact. Like those movies of yore, it's all about the spectacle, and for the most part the CGI effects deliver (that poor sabertooth notwithstanding), particularly when the attacking digital beasts are partially obscured by long grass, darkness or rain. One does miss the rear projection, miniatures and other tacky effects that made movies like SHE, THE LOST WORLD and VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN so much fun, but there's enough comic relief in overblown speeches and heroes who look like a cross between Bob Marley and Frank Zappa and villains who could be mistaken for Osama bin Laden. leave a comment --Ken Fox
Roland Emmerich's big-budget throwback to prehistoric fantasies like ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. and PREHISTORIC WOMEN is too dumb to take seriously, but just silly enough to be sort of fun.