STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And we'll move from Afghanistan, a place where the past is always present, to your local movie theater, where a film gets its material from the past.

It comes from writer-director Roland Emmerich, who is responsible for "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow." He's taken audiences to a lot of strange places. But critic Kenneth Turan says not one of them was as strange as his "10,000 B.C."

KENNETH TURAN: "10,000 B.C." is as crazy as it wants to be. It plunders the past, and plunders other movies with that peculiar Hollywood combination of the earnest and the preposterous that has to be seen to be believed.

Who knew, for instance, that woolly mammoths were used to build the pyramids. True story.

The idea behind "10,000 B.C." is that the Ice Age is not a time but a place that people could simply walk out of, if they had a heck of a good reason to hit the trail.

Our hero, the hunter D'Leh, has that reason. His beloved Evolet has been kidnapped by a band of marauding slave traders. So D'Leh starts walking, encountering everything from saber-toothed tigers to a flock of enormous and quite hostile chickens. He ends up in a proto-Egyptian civilization run by effete priests who are dead wringers for refugees from Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto." Naturally, he leads a revolt.

(Soundbite of movie, "10,000 B.C.")

Unidentified Man (Actor): (As character) We will join our brothers and sisters on the mountain of the gods and convince them to fight with us together as one!

TURAN: More than anything, "10,000 B.C." is an updated version of those old Saturday matinee action films. It's filled with hair's breath escapes, wild coincidences, things foretold by ancient prophecy, and mysterious places from which no one has ever returned. "10,000 B.C." even employs the veteran Omar Sharif to read a pious voiceover that relies on sentiments like, Only time can teach us what is truth and what is legend.

The oracle, friends, has spoken.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan is movie oracle for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

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