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A spectacularly historically inaccurate movie about a mammoth-hunter named D'Leh, ostensibly set in the year 10,000 B.C. During a "great hunt" of a stampede of wooly mammoths, D'Leh appears to slay a gigantic ultra-mammoth and is awarded his tribe's sacred artifact, the White Spear. This allows him to claim any woman in the tribe as his wife, and he chooses his childhood friend Evolet (who was originally from somewhere else, and found by the tribe wandering the tundra half-dead.) Then guilt over cheating causes him to give the spear back, angering said childhood friend.
Soon after, horsemen with swords show up and kidnap many of the villagers, including D'Leh's girlfriend. He and the few surviving hunters set off on a quest to track down these raiders and get their families back.
After traversing some seriously weird terrains, and having a few small adventures along the way, D'leh is separated from the rest of the party. He ends up at an agricultural village in a desert. There, he manages to impress the local chief, and makes friends with the natives. It turns out that this and many other villages have been victimized by the same raiders that kidnapped D'Leh's people, and taken to "the Mountain of the Gods." The chief somehow concludes that D'Leh is The Chosen One who will overthrow the evil god who is doing this.
Soon after, all the desert tribes gather together to march towards the Mountain of the Gods (which turns out to be a gigantic and work-in-progress pyramid.) There, the prisoners are being used as slaves in a big construction job. The impromptu army attacks and triggers a slave uprising. D'Leh himself kills the false god who's running things, and everybody is freed.
The chief gives D'Leh some seeds, and instructions on how to farm. D'Leh, his wife, and those mammoth-people who remain return to their tundra home to rebuild.
This film contains examples of:
- Anachronism Stew: the first pyramid wasn't even built until 2630 BC. They didn't even have agriculture back then.
- At one point, the villains use a 17th century telescope.
- Boats that wouldn't be made until 6,000 years after this movie is supposedly set.
- Corn. In Europe. 12,000 years or so before the first recorded ships came to the New World.
- The terror birds became extinct millions of years before the year the film supposedly takes place in.
- Ancient Astronauts: Implied. The slaves tell Moa & Baku that The God of the Pyramid came down from the stars.
- Or from Atlantis. Given the ridiculously advanced (for the setting) technology he and his servants use, they may well be right.
- Androcles' Lion: D'Leh and the giant sabretooth tiger
- Barbarian Hero
- Black Speech
- The Chosen One: Both D'Leh and Evolet.
- George Lucas Throwback: To One Million Years B.C.
- Light Is Not Good / Order Versus Chaos: the false god wears white and is charismatic enough to build a civilization around him. And then the good guys come around and destroy the civilization he formed. Seems like an inverse version of the order/light against chaos/darkness more often present.
- Meaningful/Sdrawkcab Name: "D'Leh" is "Held" backwards; "Held" means "Hero" in German/Dutch. And apparently the woman is named Evolet. Telove. The love. Dang, they named her after her role.
- Mighty Whitey: The quasi-African tribesmen living in the desert have a prophecy that "one day the one will come who will free our people". And that one is D'Leh. Obviously, they just can't do it themselves.
- Misplaced Wildlife: Wooly mammoths helped build the pyramids. Never mind that they're woolly mammoths and thus should be somewhere cold. Which Egypt isn't.
- Also, the Sabre-Tooth in Africa. Sure, some species of Sabre-Toothed Cats did live in Africa, however the species featured in the film is clearly a Smilodon, which only ranged from North and South America.
- Misplaced Vegetation: Film Brian notices that the area transitions from the Brazilian rain forests to the South Chinese tropical forest when one of the terror birds chase the hero into an area populated with bamboo. However it could have been a Dan Browned on his part as there are species of bamboo that do grow in Latin America. On the other hand, the African village elder giving the hero a handful of corn to take back and grow in his tribe is an example of this trope, as maize originated from Central Mexico, not Africa. In addition, while it would have been a fairly good idea to use this as a secret historical phenomenon lost to history where Native Americans received the corn and used it as the major staple of their diet as a result of this leader's gift to the hero (as implausible as it may sound), it has already been established according to documentation All There in the Manual that D'Leh and Evolet came from the Ural Moutains of Western Russia, making the idea impossible.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: D'leh and his buddies destroyed one of the only BASTIONS OF CIVILIZATION and set humanity back god knows how long. A few sacrifices isn't that much of a price to pay.
- Physical God: Except he isn't.
- Rule of Cool: Roland Emmerich's other specialty.
- Somewhere a Palaeontologist Is Crying: Should be pretty obvious from just watching ten minutes of the film. See also Misplaced Wildlife.
- Trailers Always Lie: The confrontation with the Smilodon is featured heavily. It gets stuck in a pit that's filling with water. D'leh says to it "Do not eat me after I free you!". He frees it, then it goes off on it's way.
- Villainous Crush: The warlord leader of the four horsemen falls for Evolet and buys her to make her his lover, even kidnapping her from D'Leh near the end. Of course, when he realizes she doesn't want him he throws a spear into her back, killing her before D'Leh kills him.
- You Fail Geography Forever: The film itself never makes it quite clear where it is all set; but given the locations seen, there are a few obvious choices. In the first part of the film, it can be assumed that they were a "Native American" tribe. When they reach the forest, it is obviously intended to be South America. Now this part is all fine and dandy... but then they end up in AFRICA. Which wouldn't have been that much of a problem... if they hadn't WALKED the entire journey. And this is excluding the fact that the transitional zones between each climate is about ten yards across. You don't go from tundra to jungle to desert in one day without a lot more variety. Technically, they could have been going from sub-Saharan jungles, through grasslands, up through the desert, and finally reached Egypt...Except what the bleep are tanned WHITE GUYS (and one blue-eyed woman) doing living on a tundra in extreme southern Africa?
- You Fail History Forever: Sure, the film probably isn't meant to evoke historical accuracy... but they really kicked themselves in the teeth when they decided to name the movie on an actual prehistoric date.