Apocalypto: Same Old Mel

2006 December 23
by CajoleJuice

And I’m not talking about anti-Semitism. (I personally thought that drunken tirade was pretty funny – come on, “sugartits”? – that’s priceless) I’m referring to Gibson’s love for violence and his obvious attraction towards tortured heroes. This subtitled film that takes place during the downfall of the Mayan civilization is no different.

On one hand, Gibson shows a bit of Mayan culture, but on the other, it really only serves as the backdrop setting for the personal story that Gibson tells in Apocalypto. The narrative follows the rough path of Jaguar Paw, played by Rudy Youngblood (an unknown actor, but he turns in a great performance) and his village in the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula. The first half provides some funny moments and characterization of the people in his village, and then goes on to show a major Mayan city of the time. The aspects of this Mayan metropolis that Gibson displays in the movie haven’t gone over well with his critics and historians – they say that he portrays them as brutal, uncultured savages. Well, he didn’t portray Britain in too much of a positive light in Braveheart either.

Personally, I felt Gibson did an amazing job of putting his audience in that time and place, possibly better than in did he with The Passion of the Christ. It truly felt like a high-budget History Channel special for much of the first half of the movie – which is possibly why some people were angered by Gibson’s portrayal of the Mayan city. This just tells me he did an amazing job at making the film feel authentic. In terms of entertainment value, this part of the movie is a bit uneven and even discomforting at times. There is also a prophecy scene that edges on the comical, in addition to dragging on too long. You’ll know what I’m talking about the minute you see it.

The movie doesn’t kick into full gear until about halfway through, when it turns into a Predator-style romp through the jungle. The last hour of the movie is some of the most suspenseful and satisfying action that I’ve seen all year. You might squirm in your seat at some of it, but you will love it if you have any testoterone in your body. It’s pretty damn awesome, and possibly worth the price of admission alone. I also feel this is a film meant for theater viewing. It’s not quite as epic as it seemed to claim in trailers, but it’s still incredibly cinematic. Gibson knows how to make a visually striking film.

Overall, I give this film one crazed smiling Mel Gibson.

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