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 not actually slaying a mammoth causes him to return the spear, 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:
- All Cavemen Were Neanderthals: Averted. All of the major characters except maybe The Almighty and Old Mother are normal, physically modern Homo sapiens. The Almighty's exact nature as a human or Human Alien is left unclear, whereas Old Mother is heavily implied to be a bonafide neanderthal and the Last of Her Kind.
- Ambiguous Time Period: Ignoring the obvious fact of the title, the film appears to be set in the prehistoric times, with the main character encountering both a woolly mammoth and a saber tooth tiger. However, he ends up somewhere that appears to be ancient Egypt or at least Mesopotamia (an emperor is having a large pyramid built). Although he does end up destroying that civilization...
- Anachronism Stew: The "god" and his immediate followers are ancient-Egyptian flavored, the warband he hires as muscle are arabic-ish horsemen with Polynesian style boats, and everyone else is in various flavors of the stone age.
- Anachronistic Animal:
- The characters ride upon modern-day horses. The problem is, horses in prehistoric times looked nothing like their modern day, more domesticated, descendants. The horses should be much stockier, have upright manes, and be plainer looking (overall being closer to a donkey than a modern horse).
- On the opposite end of the spectrum, giant terror birds like Titanis went extinct around one million years ago and were definitely not around 10,000 B.C.
- Ancient Astronauts: Implied. The slaves tell Moa & Baku that The God of the Pyramid came down from the stars. Given the ridiculously advanced (for the setting) technology he and his servants use, they may well be right.
- Animal Stampede: As the slaves try to escape, D'Leh scares a mammoth of burden and starts a mammoth stampede that tramples the enemy guards.
- Androcles' Lion: D'Leh and the giant sabretooth tiger.
- Artistic License History: The movie probably isn't meant to evoke historical accuracy. Naming the movie on an actual prehistoric date was [more likely] done for promotional purposes.
- Atlantis: Another version of the God's origin story has him coming from a distant homeland that sank beneath the ocean. It seems to be his most plausible origin: in one scene, when Evolet is brought before the God, the camera focuses on some strangely detailed maps that are displaying a mass of land in the Atlantic Ocean, between South America and Africa.
- Back from the Dead: Old Mother sacrifices her life so that Evolet can be brought back to life.
- Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: After buying, the warlord takes Evolet to be bathed and clothed by his servants before he tries to seduce her.
- Black Speech: The "Egyptians" speak in a language that none of the characters speak or understand.
- Chastity Dagger: The lead warlord buys Evolet as his concubine and tries to have a private moment with her. As he prepares to have his way with her, she pulls out a knife to kill him. However, they are then interrupted by the Atlantean's servants who are none too pleased to see that the warlord tried to keep one of their master's slaves for himself.
- Combat Pragmatist: Not so much "do anything to win" as "do anything to get out alive," but the warlord kills one of his own men during the terror bird attack so that he can take his horse and get away.
- The Dog Bites Back: A subtle example-among the numerous peoples from disparate countries D'Leh brings with him to the pyramid include a group of giant African warriors. They all sneak in disguised as slaves and an overseer begins continuously whipping their leader, who just crouches down and takes it until D'Leh gives the signal, when he immediately stands up to his full, seven-foot plus height, grabs the overseer by the throat and effortlessly hurls him off the pyramid to his death.
- Genre Throwback: To One Million Years B.C. and other "prehistoric caveman adventures" films of the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
- If I Can't Have You...: Being rejected by Evolet causes the warlord who kidnapped her to throw a spear into her back, seemingly killing her. He even tells D'Leh, in his own language, "You will not have her either" before being killed himself.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: The leader of the warlords takes an interest in Evolet, even buying her to keep her, though his master was not pleased.
- Inertial Impalement: This is how D'Leh kills the mammoth. When his spear gets stuck in the ground, he runs away, leading the beast to impale itself. He also does it to the terror birds, this time intentionally.
- Last of His Kind: Old Mother is heavily implied to be a Neanderthal and is stated to be such. The Almighty is also likely such, being the last Atlantean or Alien.
- 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 Name: "D'Leh" is "Held" spelled backwards; "held" means "Hero" in German and Dutch. Likewise, the woman is named Evolet. Telove. The love. Dang, they named her after her role.
- Medieval Prehistory: Mammoths, saber-toothed cats and terror birds along with a horse-riding, sword-wielding, pyramid-building culture.
- 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 Vegetation:
- Film Brain notices that the area transitions from the Brazilian rain forests to the South Chinese tropical forest when one of the terror birds chases the hero into an area forested in bamboo. However, it could have been 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 definitely an example of this trope, as maize originated from Central Mexico, not Africa, and was only brought to Eurasia late in the last millennium. 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 Mountains of Western Russia, making the idea impossible.
- Furthermore when the movie takes place the Sahara might not have even been a desert given that every few thousand years it shifts between a dry climate and a wet climate.
- Misplaced Wildlife:
- Woolly mammoths helped build the pyramids. Never mind that they're woolly mammoths and thus should be somewhere cold. Which Egypt isn't. To be fair, the implication seems to be that the mammoths were captured and brought there for use as labor just like the human slaves, not that they're actually native to the desert.
- 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.
- Assuming that Word of God is correct and this takes place in South America, everything is misplaced. Even the terror birds (the last known to date are from Florida; some possible fossils come from the late Pleistocene of Paraguay, but it's not entirely certain).
- Panthera Awesome: A giant sabre-toothed cat.
- Raptor Attack: The terror birds are essentially used this way, acting uncannily like the velociraptors from Jurassic Park.
- Reality Ensues: Baku wants to be a hunter from the very start of the movie, becoming a Tagalong Kid in pursuit of that and is reluctantly accepted in this role by Tic'tic and D'leh, and gets his chance in a metaphorical hunt during the climax after D'leh starts a stampede among the captured mammoths. Furthermore, Baku's motivation in the film is the find and kill the one-eyed slaver as revenge for his mother's death at the start of the film. Finally, in the very last battle in the entire film, he gets his chance: One-Eye is advancing on Baku's friend Tudu and Baku has a spear. He raises his spear, hurls it at his archenemy...and completely misses. What did you think was gonna happen, Baku? You've never used a spear before! Luckily, Nakudu is there to successfully kill One-Eye in the same way that Baku tried.
- Rule of Cool: One of Roland Emmerich's many specialties.
- 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 its 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 shoots an arrow into her back, killing her before D'Leh kills him.