Apocalypto review by Tom Blain

Apocalypto is set, very convincingly, in Mayan times. I say very convincingly because I cant imagine a film maker doing a better job to convey the Mayan times than director Mel Gibson does here. Details were thought about and stressed, from the costumes, to the styles of weapons, down to the language that was spoken. More on that in a second

In Apocalypto, the big city Mayan rulers and shamans believe that their agricultural hard times can be solved by big temples and human sacrifices around the clock. The Gods love those sacrafices, so best to keep them coming and who better to sacrifice than the people living outside of the big working temple-city? Jaguars Paw (Rudy Youngblood) and his group of Mayans live in the jungle on the outskirts of the city. They work together and live together in the village, using the land and its animals to survive. One day their peaceful existence is disrupted by bounty hunting marauders looking to capture a solid group of sacrifice candidates. The village is left empty, with the exception of Jaguars Paws wife and child who hide in a cave awaiting his return.

Apocalypto follows a similar theme that nearly all Mel Gibson run movies seem to follow and that is the idea of the underdog vs. the big power or David vs. Goliath. In Braveheart William Wallace brings a group of Scots together to battle big bad England. In Payback, small time bad guy Porter goes through a series of mobsters and henchmen to get money that he is owed. And in the biggest of the big,The Passion of the Christ, Jesus is the ultimate little guy as he is tortured and crucified. He overcomes the greatest challenge of all, i.e. death, to rise from the grave three days later. Apocalypto is similar to all these movies as the scrawny Jaguars Paw was cruelly imprisoned along with the rest of his clan. He escapes not only sacrifice but the city itself with the goal of reaching his family.

The first half of the movie deals with everyday lives of this small group of Mayans plus their capture and destruction. They hunt, they joke, they party, etc. This half, while interesting and even somewhat educational I suppose, tended to run a little dry. Some of the scenes after the capture seemed to drag. Just in time to kick up the pace was the second half which consisted of the arrival to the Mayan city with the sacrificing bit, followed by the escape and chase through the jungle. Thats when Apocalypto got a bit more interesting.

I found myself awed by the production of the whole Mayan city. The temples were imposing structures that were meant to reach the gods and in the film appeared to do just that. The costumes were more than just a bunch of painted faces and towel thongs. There was a lot of planning and research that went into the ceremonial dress of the priests and executioners (either that or these are pieces from Mel's personal closet) as well as the common people who were watching the spectacle like a NASCAR race.

No matter what you think of director Mel Gibson and his subject matter, its hard not to be impressed with the way he goes about producing his movies. Braveheart was a major undertaking and out of it he got an Oscar. Then he went over the top by filming a movie about the last days of Christ in the Aramaic language (who speaks this stuff?). Now with Apocalypto he is construction Mayan cities and teaching his actors to speak in Mayan tongues. No matter how you slice it thats pretty impressive. Apocalypto is one of those movies worth seeing one time but probably wouldnt be the type of movie to get repeated views.




7 out of 10 Jackasses
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