Short version: While there's an attempt to make this a personal story, it's really about what we thought it would be: Incredible vistas populated with a combination of ancient temples, pyramids, woolly mammoths and a cast of (CGI) thousands.
Oh, and it tries oh so very hard to live up to that word.
The best I can say about 10,000 BC is that it wasn't as bad as I was expecting it to be.
The film opens with our hero as a young boy in a village that depends upon the annual hunt for woolly mammoths for food. It seems that every year there are fewer and fewer and that the way of life of the small village is coming to an end. A young girl whose village was pillaged is brought to this one as the sole survivor. Her defining characteristic is that she has amazing blue eyes.
And old woman who functions as the shaman of these people predicts that their time of hunting mammoths is close to an end and the boy who ends up taking the girl as a mate when they're older will be the catalyst for moving from one era to the next. For some reason, the boy's father decides that he must head out and leave the village in order to insure its survival before the last mammoth is hunted. What he hopes to accomplish exactly, is not clear.
He leaves his comrade in hunting who seems to be the #2 head honcho in charge of the village and his son. The boy is teased by others who think that his father was a coward for leaving. After being alienated from the group, there is a brief bonding moment between him and the girl where he picks out what I assume to be the North Star and tells her just as that star never moves neither will he ever stop loving her (or something to that effect).
Cut to them at about 20 years old: She's far and away the babe of the village, if not of the entire planet, and while he's all buff and everything, he seems to be kind of a schmoe: A wanna-be big hunter, but not really up to par. Anyway, he gets credit for bringing down a big woolly mammoth and gets the big fancy white spear. He wasn't quite honest about it and gives it back to his dad's pal, although it was difficult for him because winning the spear meant he would also win the babe.
Shortly thereafter the predicted bad guys show up and kidnaps most of the town for whatever nefarious purposes, and they take her with them. The leader of these guys is quite taken by her (ok, her name is Evolet, played by Camilla Belle).
The young man (named D'Leh and played by Steven Strait) resolves to save her. So he, his father's friend and another young guy left behind set out to track down the bad guys and rescue everyone.
Now, I've already said this wasn't as bad as I thought, but on the other hand I really didn't care much about even the two main characters. Emmerich didn't do much of a job (although it was obvious he tried) to make us feel all that connected to these two and they felt kind of like a couple of animated mannequins to me. To give the movie due credit towards the end they did feel a bit more fleshed out but overall I was just kind of bored by the whole thing.
One thing I found kind of funny were a couple of very long shot sweeping, circling scenes of vistas that looked like they were taken directly from the Lord of the Rings movie making manual. Beyond that, the CGI mammoths looked ok, but that gigantic sabre-toothed tiger looked quite fake to me.
And yes, in one scene they were attacked by giant birds.
I've heard them referred to as "giant chickens" but to me they look more like giant ostriches. I really would have preferred some lizardy thing, but hey, that's just me.
This small group ends up meeting with another and the word goes out that they're going to war with the folks in the big pyramid city. In one scene that gave me a chuckle, this big fearsome warrior who leads the toughest gang of warriors in the area goes up to D'Leh and says to the translator:
"He looks young."
To which D'Leh replies:
"I'm older than I look."
So while the fierce warrior was mighty, he must also have been easily convinced since that was good enough for him.
When they finally get to the giant city, I was distracted by the fact that I knew I was watching one long shot after another of nothing but total CGI. It didn't look awful, mind you, but I kind of checked out a bit during those scenes.
Another thing that stood out was that I don't believe I've seen a movie with so much violence and mayhem including people thrown off buildings to drop 20 stories to their deaths, big mallets used as deadly weapons, knives, spears and other sharp pointy things as implements of death... all pretty much used without a drop of blood to be seen.
Ah, the joys of a PG-13 movie.
And while I won't give away the ending, just as I was about to give 10,000 BC the slightest amount of respect due to the way the movie seemed to be ending, it vanished in a puff of smoke in such a manner as to make me laugh out loud in the theater.
Was it awful? No. Was it entertaining? Mildly. You may even like it, but I thought it was pretty weak.