is a gorgeous film. The sets, CGI, cinematography, costumes, and make-up are first rate, vividly recapturing the heydays of the Mayans. The acting from Rudy Youngblood as the films hero on down to the shrieking mother-in-law men might well relate to is, without question, spot-on. Even Mel Gibsons
decision to go with the Yucatec language, which necessitated the use of subtitles, works perfectly within the confines of the film. However, a beautifully crafted production and tremendous performances cant disguise the fact this is one of the most disgustingly violent, pointless pieces of art in decades.
Gibsons fascination with seeing almost naked men tortured continues with Apocalypto
. But while Braveheart
and Passion of The Christ
had the benefit of an interesting story to go along with the bloodshed, Apocalypto
appears to be all about showcasing violence for violences sake. Only by reading the films production notes did I get any sense of what Gibson and co-writer Farhad Safinia were trying to get across to audiences. However, moviegoers watching one brutally violent death after another arent going to have the benefit of referring to notes. Gibsons goal may have been to relate the collapse of the ancient Mayan civilization with the corruption and chaos of our modern world, but thats not how Apocalypto
plays out. Gibsons aim is way off target and whats laid out on the screen becomes a bloody blur of maiming, torturing, and killing, seemingly without end and mostly without meaning.
The film opens with a small group of 16th century Mayans celebrating the kill of a tapir by distributing the innards to members of the hunting group. One of the films only light moments comes during this opening scene when a member of the happy hunting party is tricked into eating the testicles so that he might finally be able to impregnate his wife.
© Touchstone Pictures
The tone dramatically shifts almost immediately following this scene as the peaceful tribes village is set upon by a group of marauding Mayans bent on destroying the village by slicing and dicing their way through its inhabitants (babies are not spared nor are women and young children). The men who are in good health are captured, chained to long poles, and forced to march to the Mayan temple.
The newly captured slaves have only a gruesome death to look forward to at the end of their trek. Once in the Mayan city, these men are set to be sacrificed to the gods in order to stop the drought and end the spread of disease throughout the land. Their hearts will be carved out (it is just as gory as it sounds) and displayed to cheers from the mob. Their heads will be chopped off and tossed down the temple stairs, followed shortly by their lifeless bodies (Gibson isnt satisfied with displaying these images once but for some reason feels the need to do so multiple times from different angles).
Our hero Jaguar Paw (Youngblood) who, prior to being captured, was able to lower his pregnant wife and young son into a pit for safekeeping, is determined not to die. His struggle to stay alive against immeasurable odds sets the stage for the films final act, a lengthy chase sequence loaded with plenty of grisly deaths, including a scene in which a jaguar eats the face off of one of Jaguar Paws enemies.
Unlike Gibsons Passion of The Christ
, other than a handful of scholars there isnt a built in audience for Apocalypto
. Just because youve got the power and clout to create a $40+ million film set in the last days of the Mayan Empire doesnt mean you should. Spending that much money to create a film in which the story isnt there, a movie in which the audience is left numb from watching two and a half hours of women, men, children, babies, and animals being tortured and/or slaughtered, in my book at least, is not money well-spent.
Im not a history scholar and Im not going to claim to have any knowledge of the Mayan culture. Apparently Gibson and company did their homework and by most accounts represent well that time in history and the culture of the Mayans. Whether Apocalypto is a fair representation of the culture doesnt matter in the least if the only thing accomplished by the movie is displaying as many ways as possible to mutilate and kill. Apocalypto is an exploitative, over-the-top, and nauseatingly pointless display of bloodshed devoid of any real story. Forget the richness of the culture, Gibson only wants to show the cruelty inflicted on the innocent by those deemed to be more powerful. Gibson succeeds in doing that, but fails in most other respects.
is a Mel Gibson movie and with the TV spots, trailers, interviews, and other media exposure there is no way to ignore that fact. Trying to do so would be akin to ignoring the elephant in the middle of the room. There will be those who are disgusted by the very idea of buying a ticket to support anything Gibsons attached to. Others will be equally as passionate about their support of the controversial actor/producer/director. Gibsons become a publicity lightning rod and good or bad, Disney and its marketing department have to work with what theyve been handed. That said, I actually hope people can set aside their personal feelings about the man and judge Apocalypto
based solely on its artistic merit (although I believe it has next to none).
Apocalypto was directed by Mel Gibson and is rated R for sequences of graphic violence and disturbing images.