Thursday, July 19, 2007

Cavemen, Start Your Cameras!

By Mike Gillis

So here we are, eight months away from the release of "10,000 BC," the latest pop epic from once and future blockbuster king, Roland Emmerich. Eight months isn't a lot of time to prep audiences for a film (see our earlier post on "Cloverfield") so Warner Brothers has already dispensed with a teaser trailer thick with angry cavemen, mastodons, pyramids and woolly mammoths to whet our appetites. I'm going to bet the filmmakers have concentrated on little thus far other than the effects included in the trailer. Well, that and filming thousands of extras in loincloths battering each other with rubber spears.

It's simply too easy to question the movie's value. It will be big. It will be dazzling to the eye. It will make hundreds of millions. It will be called historically accurate or reckless and sacrilege. (There is no dialogue in the trailer, so it's unknown if Emmerich will follow the path of Mel Gibson and "Apocalypto" and choose to use the native tongue, which for "10,000 BC" is ... grunting?)

The real question is, what's up with our affinity for cavemen? Would "10,000 BC" be possible if not for Geico? I don't think "Clan of the Cave Bear" had much to do with it.

Perhaps the answer is biological.

For years, we've been told to get know our primal selves, to look to our ancestors for answers. Whether it's Robert Bly yapping about "primal masculinity" or Ken Russell looking backwards in the underrated "Altered States," life's mysteries -- or at least nagging questions like how do I twist off a bottle cap with my teeth -- are already encapsulated in our genetic past.

H.P. Lovecraft once wrote, "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear. And the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." That simple truth serves us well to this day.

Of course, it may also do well by the filmmakers of "10,000 BC." If it's true that our basest and most fundamental urges and emotions are primal, then we should be scared silly seeing our ancestors on the big screen being stomped to a bloody pulp by a woolly mammoth. If that's the case, and we are nothing more than cavemen in sneakers and jeans, then Emmerich may well hit the cinematic jackpot.

And then the cavemen will, finally, have bullied their way to the top of the Hollywood pile.

Cavemen, start your cameras.

See the teaser trailer for "10,000 BC" here: