I’m good friends with Wim Wenders, but it doesn’t mean I have to like his movies. —Roland Emmerich in a March 7 Guardian interview
So are we still friends, Roland, or is 10,000 B.C. the deal breaker? Not that it’s any worse than the rest of the schlock he’s cranked out: a little of this, a little of that, a whole lotta going through the motions—to get the job done, get the damn thing marketed, brute commercial savvy being the first item of business. Which is pretty much what’s expected in any case—plus: what can be more delightful than toting up anachronisms, playing the village literalist to 10,000 B.C.‘s stupid historical uncle. Whoa, mammoths in the desert! Like, who the hell cares?
Anyway, a bunch of my favorite B.C. howlers—not an exhaustive list, so y’all feel free to add on more:
Saber-toothed cats Still lurking in the Neolithic biome, the fearsome smilodon, for one or two more millennia, in fact—but only in North and South America, not Eurasia/Africa, which is where the movie’s supposed to be taking place (though actually it’s hard to tell—see below).
Woolly mammoths A brave new theory of why they became extinct, as imported slave labor on “Egyptian” proto-pyramids. Only the logistics of transport, from arctic tundra to subtropical desert, don’t make any sense. Where’s the food coming from? Who’s sweeping away the dung? Aren’t body thermostats prone to failure in the desert sun, under all that maladaptive fur? Plus costs of provisioning and upkeep presumably outweigh the benefits of production. But maybe they can feast on their fallen comrades—pachyderm cannibalism, no wonder the species died off.
Horses Probably not domesticated before 5,000 B.C. And those thoroughbred stallions are out; ditto bridles, reins, all the horse-riding paraphernalia …
Where are we? From tundra to rain forest to desert, everything’s smooshed together in one visitor-friendly package, like a trip through a Disney theme park or Gondwana before the continents drifted apart. (But Gondwana’s 150 million years in the rearview—so what about Apocalypto World II?) As for that speculative ur-Sahara: mostly arid grassland around the 10,000 mark, with desertification setting in only after the monsoon patterns changed—another 6,000 years in the future …
Sailing down the Nile Or whatever the river’s called—sand to the water’s edge, not a hint of riparian fertility, what the Nile’s historically been known for. Some pretty impressive craft though, like modern dhows and feluccas—except sails weren’t invented till the fourth millennium BC. And forget about the double rigging.
Pyramids Which require organized infrastructure—cities, towns, government, etc—which requires an agriculture-based economy … which won’t be happening anytime soon, or at least for a couple thousand years.
Dinosaur chickens Not since that runaway asteroid hit the earth at the end of the Mesozoic. Sqwaaarrrrkkk!