I was all set to enjoy this one, since in years past I've enjoyed Roland Emmerich'sIndependence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, but oh man, this one is no good. When your movie pales in comparison to the Godzilla remake, you've got problems.
It's almost exactly the same movie as Apocalypto - tribal warfare sets a young hero on a journey through a primitive world to a corrupt city, with pyramids, even. But whereas Mel Gibson's movie actually had a perspective and something to say through a detailed recreation of pre-Columbian life, Emmerich is only interested in the hollow CGI spectacles of wooly mammoths and slaves building pyramids.
Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that- my enjoyment of Emmerich's earlier movies mostly stems from his ability to show us things that we've never seen before, from alien spaceships destroying American cities to vast weather formations wreaking havoc on, er, American cities. In his own adolescent, uncomplicated way, Emmerich is a visionary.
But in this movie, it feels like he's just going through the motions. The spectacle of huge pyramids being constructed by swarms of slaves and mammoth stampedes and giant flightless birds are impressive, but pointless. The narrative is just your standard self-actualization through special effects for young men, because who can prove their mettle if not by leading a multi-ethnic army of slaves against a phony god-king?
On the plus side, for a movie that's five hours long, it really flies by and only feels like 3 or 4, tops. In addition, I applaud the effort that seems to have been made to make the various 'good guys' an inclusive, multi-racial group with the hero's tribe consisting of Caucasian, African-American, Asian, and Middle Eastern actors, (including the always reliable Cliff Curtis). But the movie also falls into the same lazy trap of 300 by having the bad guys be effete 'Eastern' barbarians.
Basically, if the movie had been willing to be sillier and less earnest, with so many ponderous mid-Atlantic speeches and pointless narration, and with some more honest violence or unpretentious thrills, it could have at least been as entertaining as Lucio Fulci's Conquest or The Beastmaster. I am, however, looking forward to the sequel, 10,000 C.B., about a group of prehistoric truckers.