Monday, December 18, 2006


So, I watched Apocalypto the other night.

What to say? The first word that comes to mind is, "Why?" Basically, it's like every other Mel Gibson film. It's incredibly violent. All humans are savages or at least capable of degraded savagery. They commit this savagery against other humans. Through suffering, some sort of redemption is reached, though rarely to any good end.

In this case, as many of you know, the main character lives in an idyllic Mayan jungle village when his people are attacked by a group of warriors looking to capture slaves and sacrifice victims. Just as our hero is about to be sacrificed, natural phenomena get in the way. He manages to kill the son of the lead warrior and is thus chased back to his village by the enraged gang.

In some ways, we have to respect Gibson. There are few directors today who have a consistent vision that they manage to get on screen. Gibson has this vision. I just don't know what that vision of violence and brutality does for him. I just don't know why he wanted to make this story except as a template to tell the same story he always tells. In fact, I'm surprised he's never directed a western, which seems particularly suited to this form of storytelling. But Apocalypto just seemed pointless to me. Do we really need people talking with blood literally spurting from their brain wound? Do we need to watch the headless bodies roll down the pyramid? Do we need to see someone brain get pounded on a rock as he dives off a waterfall? According to Mel, the answer is yes.

Particularly interesting was how Gibson used nature. During the chase, just about every animal of the jungle who can kill, kills one of the raiders. Jaguar--check. Poison dart frog--check. Snake--check. Hell, the bad guys even get a wasp's nest thrown at them. I was just waiting for the crocodile--maybe in the director's cut. Nature isn't idyllic for Gibson; rather, it is another savage part of the world waiting to strike out at humans.

Also, the ending is horrendous. While I won't give it away exactly, Gibson squishes 500 years of history into the last frame in a really absurd way. If I wasn't already irritated at the film, that moment would have lost me. While I imagine the general public doesn't care, I do.