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Movie Review: Apocalypto

Directed by Mel Gibson
Written by Gibson and Farhad Safinia

Apocalypto already has a few things against it becoming a hit.  It has a cast of unknowns, subtitles, and a bizarre marketing campaign that didn’t really tell us what the movie was about, even though it emphasized action.  Some might say Gibson faced some of the same problems with The Passion of the Christ a few years ago, but there was a built-in audience with a tremendous marketing blitz through churches that made that one a hit.

This one concerns the end of Mayan civilization before the Spanish conquests, focusing on a particular tribe living peacefully in the forest.  Our hero is Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), who is married to Seven (Dalia Hernandez) and has a child, Turtles Run (Carlos Emilio Baez), and another baby on the way.  The tribe gets attacked by a rival tribe, and Jaguar Paw hides his wife and child in a pit nearby.  Jaguar Paw is soon kidnapped, and his family is trapped in the pit.  Soon, Paw and others are being led to a sacrifice while others, namely the women, are being sold into slavery.  Due to a fortunate circumstance, Paw is spared and sent on the run in a Most Dangerous Game-style manner.  With his family on his mind, the chase begins.

Apocalypto is old-school filmmaking, a classic action tale that you might have seen in the old Hollywood, sans the brutal bloodshed.  Oh yes, Gibson has never shied away from that, whether the movie is Braveheart or The Passion, and there’s some stuff that will make you wince or throw your head back in whiplash it’s so brutal. 

I thought the beginning of the movie was a bit bungled, considering Gibson spends a lot of time on Jaguar Paw’s brother Blunted (Jonathan Brewer), who seems to be fodder for village pranksters and is made out to be a fool (and, as is usual, later the hero).  So we don’t get much of a sense of Jaguar Paw as a man before the attack, or even that he’s the main guy.  These end up being relatively minor qualms, but it would have helped this to be even better.

As is, though, an action fan will not be disappointed.  It’s got everything in the action canon: pursuit, death, luck, resourcefulness, and secondary dangers (beware of the jaguar!) all combining into one thrilling flick.


Comment from KW
Time: December 8, 2006, 3:40 pm

Hmmm. This one’s getting reviews all over the board. I’ve seen it called Gibson’s best film ever, and I’ve seen it called disgustingly violent. As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in between.

Comment from Jonathan Watkins
Time: December 8, 2006, 8:25 pm

I saw this film last night, and I pretty much agree with Chris. It’s a pretty cool action picture, and I don’t think there is a damn thing wrong with that. But with it being subtitled, missing Jesus, and with the majority of the population thinking Mel Gibson is nuts (Myself included) I don’t see it doing anything box office wise. Does anyone know what the budget of this thing was; it looked pretty expansive, but with a no name cast and what not I guess some of the expenses were able to be put to better use. I will say this. Having absolutely detested “The Passion of the Christ,” it was nice to see Gibson back to his “Braveheart” ways, and to be honest I found this at least to be a little more entertaing than “Braveheart.” So, do with that what you will.

Comment from Brainwash Rebel
Time: December 12, 2006, 6:22 am

“Apocalypto is nothing less than the visual fantasies and fetishes of a very disturbed man. First, we had to suffer two hours of a film entitled PASSION OF THE CHRIST, in which Christ is tortured for two entire hours, as one atrocity after another is inflicted upon him. For some reason, all the gore freaks and torture buffs in America “got off” watching that appalling film. I don’t consider that kind of thing entertainment and I sure did not walk away from the film feeling enlightened about Christ. Now, we get another example of Mel Gibson’s disturbed mind, in the form of two hours of a jungle tribe being tortured, with one atrocity after another visited upon them. Gibson is truly in need of psychiatric assistance (not to mention his many sadistic admirers). What is appealing about watching people being tortured and maimed for several hours????? Gibson seems so fascinated with torturing and brutalizing characters that you have to wonder if in a former life he was a member of the Spanish Inquisition, possibly the head of a torture unit assigned to maiming the Jews he so despises? Or maybe he worked for one of the Russian Tzars and assisted them in torturing Jews during their vicious pogroms? Never have I seen a director who revels in splattering blood, cruelty, and sadism upon a screen as this sick individual. Anybody who “gets off” on this kind of film is probably the same kind of brain dead jackass who rushes to see Marilyn Manson concerts or worships Rob Zombie. In other words, this is a film that will appeal to the lowest common denominator of nasty freaks who like to see small helpless animals tortured. Of course, every anti-Semite in America is rushing to see the film and place dollars in the paws of this sick puppy, Gibson, masquerading as a human being. Never has there been such a lightning rod for anti-Semitic sentiment as this emotionally warped man, who embodies everything wrong about America and contemporary American cinema.”

Comment from KW
Time: December 13, 2006, 11:21 am

What?! Do you just go around looking for blogs that mention Mel Gibson and then copy/paste in this little rant of yours?

1. You don’t even talk about the film that’s been reviewed.

2. You don’t appear to even have seen the film that’s being reviewed.

3. You think Mel Gibson is the biggest anti-semitic lightning rod in history?!?! Are you kidding me? In history?!

4. I think you just hate Gibson–which is a legitimate opinion, I suppose–and chose to use this movie review to bash him. Again, fine enough for you to have those opinions, but rather than paste them into blogs that review movies…perhaps you could just start your own blog about how much you hate Mel Gibson. Blogs are free, man. Then you’d have your own forum to rant all you like. Just a suggestion.

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