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Ah, Roland Emmerich. What would overblown optimistic Hollywood blockbusters be without you?
Look at him, he knows what he’s done.
Who can forget such classics as Aliens Destroy American Landmarks on Ironic Holiday.
Also known as Independence Day.
Or what about Giant Mutant Iguana Eats a Lot of Fish?
Also known as Godzilla.
As well as “This Isn’t What I Had in Mind” Al Gore Said While Crying.
Also called The Day After Tomorrow.
And let’s not forget Let’s Cash-in on the Fears of Paranoid Idiots.
I mean 2012.
(Hah, it’s 2015)
And last but not least (well, maybe) Jamie Foxx as Obama but Blacker.
White House Down.
Yes, Roland is known for his many weird yet generic disaster and action movies. He often puts things so out of place in the films he makes that all you can think to do is stare at the screen and say ‘what?’ (Jamie Foxx’s president character owning a pair of Jordan’s probably being the worst offender). The science presented in his films is also known to be very, very, VERY inaccurate. I know, I know, he makes summer action movies, we can’t expect the science to match up with things that actually happen or else the movie would be boring. But when you make claims like ‘the molecules are mutating’ (the supposed cause of the disasters in 2012), you have to know a few people are going to raise their eyebrows.
So, what happens when a director known for spectacle over substance with bad Hollywood science to boot makes a film in a prehistoric setting. You get nightmare fuel for me. This is 10,000 freakin’ BC.
The basic premise of this movie is that a young mammoth hunter from a remote village goes on an epic adventure through early civilization and prehistoric landscapes to find his lover who had been kidnapped by members of an advanced race. Seems like a pretty cool set up for a film, right? But it all comes down to the execution. And this film is executed POORLY….
This movie is filled to the BRIM with anachronisms. This movie is supposed to take place over 10,000 years ago, made apparent by the title; but the movie shows a civilization that has domesticated horses for riding (at this point horses were still hunted for food and wouldn’t be domesticated for thousands more years), has metal forged weapons (which didn’t appear until relatively recently in human history), and is building an ancient Egypt type city full of pyramids and monuments despite humanity at this point still being composed of hunters/gatherers (this city is even implied to be Atlantis, as in actual freakin’ Atlantis!).
Now, I could give this movie some leeway. It is a fictional story, and it could be taken as a fantasy in a prehistoric setting as opposed to an actual presentation of what the world could have been like ten thousand years ago. But I’m not here to judge all that. I’m here to look at the prehistoric animals presented. Won’t that be fun.
Now, as we all know, a movie set in an Ice Age like environment isn’t complete without Woolly Mammoths. Oh, and they have to be Mammuthus primigenius, no other prehistoric elephant species can do. I find this somewhat ironic since mammoths are almost always presented as huge beasts much bigger than anything today, but in reality the woolly mammoth was about the same size as modern elephants. The truly giant mammoth species were the Columbian Mammoth and the Imperial Mammoth, which are much closer in size to how woolly mammoths are normally portrayed in media. And this film is no exception. These mammoths are HUGE!!!
But that isn’t the biggest issue about the mammoths I have here. No, something far more stupid that you may or may not have already heard about has gotten me banging my head against the wall. Remember that advanced civilization I talked about earlier? It has infrastructure very similar to ancient Egypt, and is heavily implied to be somewhere in the Middle East or Northern Africa. All in all, a hot desert landscape.
They have Woolly Mammoths helping to build the pyramids.
Used as beasts of burden.
To build pyramids.
In a hot, smoldering desert.
Um, movie, did you forget what a woolly mammoth is?
Or why a woolly mammoth is woolly?
OK, let me spell this out for you in case you get confused. Woolly mammoths are woolly because they live in the cold. Up north. In the tundra. The Arctic. In the Ice Age. Cold. You know, brrr and shiver. You know what cold is right?
WHAT ARE THEY DOING IN THE DESERT?!!!
A woolly mammoth could not survive in a desert. IT. WOULD. DIE. Especially if put to work like that. I know the visualization of mammoths being used to build pyramids is a cool one, but it doesn’t make sense. Like at all.
Where did they even get these mammoths? I know they don’t live in the surrounding area. Did they import them? Did they task a bunch of their people to go FAR up north, capture hundreds of mammoths, and then transport them across miles and miles of wilderness back to the pyramids? None of this makes sense. None of it!!
OK, OK, let’s just move on to the next animal. Now, mammoths are a must for any piece of Pleistocene fiction. The only other animal that absolutely cannot be neglected in such stories is the Smilodon, the infamous sabre tooth tiger.
Hey, I didn’t mean that literally.
Yep, they went for a literal sabre tooth tiger in this film. Now, for many paleontology enthusiasts/experts this would be a major no no in Smilodon depictions, as many experts love to stress that the sabre tooth tiger was not actually a tiger. Now, I’ll go on record to say that I don’t mind tiger like markings on Smilodon depictions, as we don’t actually know what kind of coloration this creature would have in real life. Heck, it could have leopard-like spots for all we know. So that aspect of this depiction I don’t have an issue with (heck, I actually think the design is pretty cool). However, I’m not done just yet.
Much like the mammoths, this movie seems to run on the idea that just because an animal is prehistoric it must be absolutely gigantic. But Smilodon isn’t nearly as big as depicted in the movie. Even the largest species of sabre tooth cat (Smilodon populator), which is thought to have been the largest known felid, is only about half the size of the creature depicted in the film.
Size comparison of three sabre-tooth cat species, with populator at the far left.
This exaggerated size was obviously shown for spectacle, but it also helps that the model for the Smilodon here was based on the liger (the offspring of a lion and tiger), which are incredibly huge.
OK, now it makes sense.
One other problem is that Smilodon is only known from the New World in North and South America, while this film is implied to take place in the Old World (perhaps somewhere in northern Russia at the beginning of the film and down to Northern Africa or the Middle East later).
Now, the film only includes one other prehistoric animal. Now, we already have mammoths and sabre-tooths (sabre-teeth?), what other Ice Age creature can we possibly add?
Yes, the film adds a flock of phorusrhacids, commonly known as terror birds, when the characters make their way through a rain forest (how they ran into a rain forest traveling from the northern tundra to the Middle East is anyone’s guess, this film doesn’t seem to have a definite location).
Yeah, there are a couple of problems with this.
First off, terror birds went extinct over a million years ago, long before the supposed 10,000 BC this movie is supposed to take place in. There has been some evidence put forward that perhaps terror birds survived to the end of the Pleistocene, but nothing concrete has been found that suggested phorusrhacids even survived to see the Ice Age, much less meet early Homo sapiens.
Like I said before, it’s almost impossible to interpret were exactly this film is supposed to take place. I think it’s just supposed to be a generic prehistoric setting, not really correlating to any known area. But if I would have to guess, I would say this movie definitely doesn’t take place in North or South America, where the most famous terror birds (specifically Phorusrhacus and Titanis) lived in. One possible terror bird has been discovered in Africa, but it is from the Eocene, long long LONG before the Ice Age. If any terror birds survived into the Pleistocene, it would be in the New World.
(One last small complaint, the terror birds in the film are portrayed with small claws on their wings, which was a feature suggested for the genus Titanis but has later been rejected. Still seen in many restorations simply because it looks cool.)
Now, I’m not really complaining about the terror birds inclusion in this film. Phorusrhacids are among my favorite prehistoric creatures, and it’s always cool to see them represented in popular media. Heck, in reality, this was probably the only they could actually have scary man eating dinosaurs in their film without it being blasphemous.
Still better than this.
Despite the flack I give this movie, it really isn’t all bad. The creatures, although inaccurate, definitely look cool. The effects are decent, and it admittedly has a pretty good premise for a movie. It still isn’t all that great either, but in the end it’s harmless. Heck, it at least gave me something cool to talk about.
Join me next time as I do another Dino’s That Need More Love. This time our subject will be Ouranosaurus.