Thread: Apocalypto
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Old 10-18-2007, 12:22 AM   #13
Mace MacLeod
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*sorry about the serious bumpage, and spoiler alert*

Well, took the plunge and rented Apocalypto the other day. Mel Gibson should be directing snuff films. This is not a compliment. To be fair, this movie does have its good points. On one level, the recreation of a Mayan city is an astounding spectacle of filmmaking. On another level, it's a relentlessly cruel, vicious, ugly, reprehensible piece of racist garbage.

Originally Posted by The Seeker
You watch the struggle that the amazingly real characters face.
Amazingly real characters? Which ones are those? We are given a brief snapshot of Jaguar Paw's village and family life before it's destroyed by Holcane warriors (I looked it up), and that's the last we get for anything remotely resembling character development. The entire rest of the movie is people we know nothing about doing horrible things to people we know next-to-nothing about, until the obligatory jungle foot-chase where our protagonist suddenly develops the survival skills of Rambo to dispatch the cookie-cutter bad guys.
Originally Posted by The Seeker
With this one, it's gory, but it's as gory as it would be in real life. Not over the top stuff, just realistic and absolutely believable like the rest of the movie. Like I said originally, it's like Saving Private Ryan. Realistic in every aspect and just plain brilliant.
It was way over the top. Absurdly over the top. Mel Gibson can't even look down and see the top with a pair of binoculars. With every single death, the camera hangs lovingly on the stabbings, beheadings, impalings, throat-cuttings and other forms of Mayan recreation with every drop of blood and pointy stick breaking flesh captured in almost pornographic detail. Which brings me to the jaguar scene. Realistic? Puh-lease. Maybe I've watched too much Animal Planet, but IIRC jaguars can run quite a bit faster than humans. And when jaguars pounce on their prey, they go for the throat, not the face. And if a bunch of people are stabbing a jaguar with their pointy sticks, it won't just sit there, go back to munching the guy's face and let the people keep on stabbing it. It's like this movie was made by a couple of 16 year-olds trying to out-gross each other.
"So after the part where people have their heads cut off and hearts ripped out to get tossed on the grilling slab, he escapes by stabbing a guy!"
"Oh, hey, and then we'll have the jaguar pounce on the guy chasing him!"
"Yeah! And, like, the jaguar will, like, eat through his face!"
"Oh, yeah yeah! His face! Whoa...!"
"Then we'll show a guy's blood squirting out of an open head wound from two angles!"

Getting back to the realism thing, if you actually know anything about Central and South American native societies before the Spaniards showed up, you see that what Mad Mel depicts is not an accurate snapshot of their lives, but a highly selective collection of only the cruelest and most vicious aspects of Mayan, Aztec and Incan cultures which spread out over hundreds of years and thousands of square miles. The bad guys in Apocalypto are the All-Stars of pre-Columbian atrocity. Mad Mel shows us only the absolute worst parts of the overall cultural arc (slavery, murder, rape, environmental destruction, human sacrifice) so as to fill the audience with sufficient disgust and anger towards the natives that we're happy when the Spanish Galleons hove into view. IMHO, the unstated message Mad Mel pounds home is "Look at these cruel, barbaric, vicious savages and what they go about doing! Isn't it a good thing we good Christians wiped them out?"

Now, I'm not one to decry violence in cinema. My favourite film is A Clockwork Orange. I saw Saving Private Ryan without even blinking during the D-Day invasion scenes. The crucial difference between Apoc and SPR is that the latter has a story and people we're brought to care about, however minimally. SPR shows us war in its horror, but it reminds us that WWII was about something. This was appalling carnage in service of an ultimately noble goal, not appalling carnage in service of a totally futile cause.

In short, if you want to see the most viciously cruel acts of violence happening to people you don't know a thing about and witness the miracle of a water birth (yes, you get to see it) in the same movie, Apocalypto is the film for you.

Be considerate to others or I will bite your torso and give you a disease!
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