The Ulam are a tribe of cavemen who possess fire in the form of a carefully guarded small flame which they use to start larger fires. Driven out of their home after a bloody battle with the ape-like Wagabu, the Ulam are horrified when their fire is accidentally extinguished while taking refuge in a marsh. Because the tribe does not know how to create fire themselves, the tribal elder decides to send three men, Naoh, Amoukar, and Gaw, on a quest to find fire.
The movie was filmed on location in the Scottish Highlands and Tsavo National Park and Lake Magadi in Kenya. The opening sequence was filmed at Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada for the forest scenes, whereas the cave home was filmed at Greig's Caves on the Bruce Peninsula along the Niagara Escarpment near Lion's Head, Ontario. Some scenes involving mammoths were filmed in Iceland.
Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four, writing that he saw it as a "borderline comedy" in the opening scenes, but "then these characters and their quest began to grow on me, and by the time the movie was over I cared very much about how their lives would turn out." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune awarded three stars out of four, stating that "you may be tempted, as I was, to shout wisecracks at the screen. But then the basic appeal of the story begins to work, and every so often we find ourselves asking ourselves, 'I wonder if that's the way it did happen?' And when that happens, 'Quest for Fire' has you hooked." Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that the film was "more than just a hugely entertaining science lesson, although it certainly is that. It's also a touching, funny and suspenseful drama about prehumans." Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times wrote that she did not know how historically accurate the movie was, "But this is film making, not carbon dating, and it seems that every piece of magic and the skill of every craft has been used to free our imagination, to let it soar with the film to see what life may have been like 80,000 years ago." Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote, "It's almost impossible to guess what the tone of this ape-man love story (based on a French novel, by J. H. Rosny, Sr.) is intended to be. Are we meant to laugh at the gaminess? At the men's werewolf foreheads? (Thick hair sprouts about an inch above their eyebrows.) The director, Jean-Jacques Annaud, seems to be willing for us to laugh but not sure about how to tell us when." 2b1af7f3a8