Skip to comments.Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" - It's No Bloody Good
Posted on 12/08/2006 9:26:29 AM PST by TaraP
Release Date: December 8, 2006
Ever since Mel Gibson directed the amazingly successful The Passion of the Christ, he has been dogged by questions of whether that film is anti-Semitic in its portrait of Jewish complicity in the death of Christ. He also has been accused of reveling in cinematic violence an action-movie star who chooses violent roles in front of the camera and violent stories to film as a director.
Gibsons recent outburst after being arrested for drunken driving revealed an ugly streak that emboldened those who believe him to be an anti-Semite. Now, with Apocalypto, the filmmaker gives his detractors plenty of additional evidence to bolster their claim that he has an unseemly obsession with violence. Whats missing this time is a larger context for the graphic images to which Apocalypto viewers are subject.
No central theological debate, as in The Passion of the Christ. No ties to European ancestry and national pride, as in Braveheart. No, Apocalypto is a savage, repellent film that raises serious questions about Gibsons interest in the worst kinds of human suffering.
The film begins with a group of jungle-dwellers, including Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), living happily as a group. They hunt for their dinner and play practical jokes on each other. Some of these are crude. When one warrior confides that he cant impregnate his wife, the cruel advice of friends leads him to engage in behaviors that end in public embarrassment.
The tribes problems dont appear to extend beyond these personal problems until word of impending trouble arrives comes from a group of uprooted natives. In the films strongest, eeriest sequence, one of the members of the group reveals that they have been chased from their homes by fierce mercenaries. After they continue on their journey, an insightful elder tribesman, sensing fear among the fleeing natives, lays out the films central message. Fear is a sickness, he tells Jaguar Paw. It will crawl into your soul. Strike it from your heart.
With the arrival of the marauding warriors, Jaguar Paw will have to confront his own fears and attempt to overcome them. He and his fellow tribesmen minus his pregnant wife and child, whom Jaguar Paw hides in a deep pit during the attack on the group will undergo a lengthy march to a ritual sacrifice, where their blood will be shed to appease a Mayan deity.
In a strange twist, Jaguar Paw finds himself not sacrificed by the Mayans, but on the run from them, determined to return to his wife and child before their lack of food and exposure to natural elements can doom them. Dialogue is minimal, other than Jaguar Paws taunts and verbal reminders to himself. As his confidence grows, he remembers the advice from earlier in the film. I am Jaguar Paw, he says. This is my forest. I am not afraid.
Apocalypto can be divided roughly into three sections. The first section portrays Jaguar Paws tribe and their harmonious existence within the jungle. The second section is the long death march of the surviving tribe members. The final section is an extended chase, with several men pursuing Jaguar Paw through the jungle, over a waterfall and on to Jaguar Paws destination.
Gibson claims to have made a film that shows how civilizations in this case, the Mayans destroy themselves from within. But the films message is not coherent. If anything, Apocalypto boils down to one mans attempts to protect his family from captors, and then free himself in time to rescue his loved ones. On that much diminished level, the film is somewhat effective, but the outcome so strains credulity that it tests any good will viewers might have saved up for the finale. Moreover, the film is so soaked in scenes of stabbings, human organ removal and beheadings that it provokes disgust rather than any sort of thoughtful engagement.
Gibsons interest in violence was apparent in the directors Oscar-winning film Braveheart, then confirmed by The Passion of the Christ. But that films very subject matter crucifixion arguably lent itself to such explicit imagery, leading The Passion and its director to be championed by conservative commentators and many Christians who admired the film and its directors uncompromising artistic vision.
Apocalypto is an uncompromising artistic vision of its own, but with no theological framework to guide it, its difficult to see how this gruesome film could be recommended for Christian audiences of any age. Although technically impressive the cinematography is outstanding, and the unknown faces cast in leading roles are striking and memorable Apocalypto is the worst kind of failure. It wraps a tepid tale of a woman and child in peril around a story of violent spectacle, recreated with passion and precision, but never illuminating or edifying. For a film full of intriguing visuals, its a remarkably ugly work.
I thought the movie would center on the Mayan Prediction that the Sun will blow up on 12/12/2012?
Even the Scientific Community has said the Sun will be at it's highest peak of exploding sunspots on that date?
I have zero interest in this movie and it has nothing to do with Mel Gibson. I have forgiven him long ago for his mistakes...we all have them. I have watched almost every movie he has made or stared in, but this one just seems very boring. I liked the Passion and put up with the other language but we knew the story so it was easy to follow. No deal on this one. Hopefully others will be interested and go see it.
So Christians are only supposed to see movies that have a religious message? What a silly, limited view.
I haven't seen it yet, but everything I have seen of it, and every person whose opionion I respect (and some I don't) have said it's a awesome film. I can't wait to see it myself.
I have less than zero interst in this film.
Of Course Not..
I will proably see it, I just thought it would be about the Mayan Prediction of 2012 which is kind of interesting
plus the title of the movie would make you think that.
The point of interest for these early astronomers seems to have been the projected end date in 2012 A.D., rather than the beginning date in 3114 B.C. Having determined the end date in 2012 (for reasons we will come to shortly), and calling it 22.214.171.124.0, they thus proclaimed themselves to be living in the 6th baktun of the Great Cycle. The later Maya certainly attributed much mythological significance to the beginning date, relating it to the birth of their deities, but it now seems certain that the placement of the Long Count hinges upon its calculated end point. Why did early Mesoamerican skywatchers pick a date some 2300 years into the future and, in fact, how did they pinpoint an accurate winter solstice? With all these considerations one begins to suspect that, for some reason, the ancient New World astronomers were tracking precession.
I want to see it. I'm interesting in the Mayans and in the dark side of humanity. Evil is much more fascinating to me than good, especially since the most evil of men believe they are doing good.
Maybe I'll go to one of his movies when he starts using English again.
I like violent movies, and I don't expect every film to have "European pride" or whatever the author here is talking about.
It looks like a great story and I look forward to watching it.
They are a hundred other people more fked up and violent than Mel freaking Gibson.
Where the hell are these "tut tut you violent monster" comments for psychos like Eli Roth or the @$$shards who keep churning out dreck such as turista, descent, the cave, etc ad nauseam?
how about that Italian guy who made a movie so depraved and violent that people were fainting and vomitting. IT made Eli Roth's sick fantasies look like baby Barbie's HAppy Fun JOy Joy partyy with Hello Kitty cuddlies.
Who is this Italian? of which you speak.
His movie sounds like something Ronald Reagan would not star in! Call my embarrassed if it turns out he did star in this international superproduction. Often in the last stages of his career, Ronald Reagan would go overseas to star in a movie or two, like a "Spagetti" Western or one of those Sword-and-Sandal epics. I wonder if it is one of these movies of which you speak. I did not know Ronald Reagan was in so violent a movie.
It's a masterpiece.
Go Mel go!
Don't expect me to jump on your "dump Mel" bandwagon.
I think what the author is saying is that a violent movie might be worth seeing if it had some sort of redemptive message. He is saying that he did not detect that in Apocalypto.
You've seen it?
Already planning to go twice again next week.
Wow - what did you like about it? Can you give us your thoughts?
I just saw it today - stunning. It is the movie of the year. It is non-politically correct because it destroys the leftist myth of the "Noble Savage" who is destroyed by the evil white Spanish Catholics - the truth is that the Mayans were just savages and the Spanish saved them from themselves and their evil witch doctors. The movie "Conquest of Paradise" shows the leftist view of western civilization destroying the Indian New World - Mel's movie shows the Spanish coming with a cross to destroy the hellish world that the Indians created for themselves and to bring them a better future. Excellent.
Very interesting. Thank you!
A friend of mine advised me to avoid all reviews before seeing it, and I'm glad I followed his advice. But if you're here, it's probably too late for that for you. LOL! I won't give any plot spoilers, but I was amazed by the story itself. Even apart from the big-picture "meaning" of the film, Gibson is just a good storyteller about these characters. And the cast of unknown actors were fantastic. There is complete conviction and believability in every character. Dean Semler did the cinematography -- he did the filming of all three "Mad Max" movies, and was the perfect choice for this film. Having the dialogue completely in Mayan was genius. Kudos to everyone involved with the costuming and special effects.
I saw the movie last night.
I believe that Mel was trying to show the audience that the native culture was terrible, bloody, savage, etc.
That the "invasion" of the Spanish Catholics was an improvement.
The audience applauded after this terribly bloody movie. That's California, I guess.
We had the same observations about the movie...
I kept wondering why it was so bloody; it was worse than "Saving Private Ryan." At the end I understood, and agree with you.
Fantastic film on so many levels. Too bad the reviewer is caught up in ugly ignorance.
This film is a masterpiece!
Don't worry. Pres. Reagan came from Hollywood's Golden Age. this Italian psychopath came during Commieweird's septic age. The movie was about 2-3 years ago.
HE would be very disappointed at the quality of movies today. The graves of actors, actresses, and directors of the Golden age have been turned into electrical generators, if you catch my drift.
I saw a deep Christian message throughout the movie, which this reviewer apparently missed. I can understand how the bloody violence in the story would distract away from the underlying Christian theme, though.