Sunday, March 04, 2007


RUNTIME: 139 min.
RATING: **1/2

Mel Gibson has just overdone the violence bit. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST was violent and it was mighty necessary to show Gibson’s point. BRAVEHEART wasn’t nearly as violent but still it was needed. But with APOCALYPTO, Gibson has created a meaningless, flaw-full depiction of the great Mayan civilization that it is a shame. The movie is well made and entertaining, fine, moves along at a respectable speed, all right and the last 45 minutes is quite visceral. But overall, it is nothing but truckloads full of garbage trash. What’s with his fetish for violence anyway? I mean even Martin Scorsese’s movies are violent but they have a point. And he never harps over the violence in his movies. The violence in Scorsese’s movies comes across as nonchalant. But in APOCALYPTO, with Gibson it is the ultimate aim. To show as much blood, as much gore possible.
The movie at the outset starts off with some statement as to how civilizations do not get destroyed on account of external forces but owe it to themselves. And if you even try of making sense of what that statement has in relation to the ensuing 135 minutes, well I’m sorry, all you’ll get is garbage. Gibson doesn’t ever show on screen that it is the Mayan civilization but he made it clear at numerous pre release interviews that APOCALYPTO alludes to the ills of the modern society and how one civilization tries to flourish at the expense of others. Quite an aim that, but frankly Gibson has missed the mark by a country mile.
First things first, I have read my history and nowhere does it say that the Mayans were outright butchers as the movie so gleefully portrays. They were one of the greatest civilizations ever. They were astronomers for crying out loud. And Mel Gibson has the courage to show a sequence where the protagonist Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) is being sacrificed and is somehow saved when the sun is eclipsed and the people think that something divine has occurred. What sort of garbage cliché is that? And let me tell you for a fact. The Mayans could predict a solar eclipse a long time before it would occur. Gibson would have been better of not talking about which civilization he was depicting in the first place. That would have taken a lot of heat of him, especially when the Aztecs were relatively similar to what Gibson portrays. Otherwise he should have gone for Aztecs who used to sacrifice people. Mayans too I guess sacrificed people, but Gibson shows a goddamn killing field. How the hell is that supposed to explain things?
As a movie, APOCALYPTO is quite fantastically made. The period details, the Mayan city the make up, all the technical areas are spot on. Of course, you won’t be seeing too much of the Mayan city because all Gibson’s camera is looking for is blood, blood and more blood. It is sheer nonsense that there’s so much needless violence in the movie. And that gets even more painful when these needless acts overshadow parts of the movie that are no less than brilliant.
The plot is awfully simple and is more like FIRST BLOOD and MAD MAX. Quite frankly that was the treatment the movie deserved. I’m a huge fan of these two movies because of their simplicity. But APOCALYPTO takes the same sort of plot and tries to create a grand social commentary out of it. The story follows Jaguar Paw whose entire village is attacked by a war party led by Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujillo) and what follows is absolute carnage. But thanks to Mr. Gibson, rather than letting us feel the plight of the poor villagers, all we get to see is lots and lots of blood. Forget who’s killing whom; all you can see is blood. The men and women captured are taken to a city where there exists the great Mayan temple. A sacrificial ritual is in place and Gibson gleefully shows us at least a zillion heads. The point is that any director worth his salt would have wrapped the scene under 5 minutes but Mr. Gibson just takes exceptional satisfaction in showing more and more heads being slashed. I mean, Jigsaw would be put to shame before Gibson’s Mayans.
I never knew that Mayans were bloodthirsty savages as opposed to the books that taught me they were a great civilization. Anyway, Jaguar Paw somehow escapes and what follows is a pursuit amidst lot more of nonsense. There’s one particular scene bringing the title of the movie into significance when a girl prophesizes the decline of the civilization. Surprisingly Jaguar Paw is supposed to be somehow central to all of it but when the actual events transpire, they frankly turn out to be ridiculous. The events are not significant and all they play to is Gibson’s prophecy.
The film’s most poignant moment is when the mother fights her way out of the water and makes it with a child and believe it or not, a newborn. There’re sequences like these that bring Mel Gibson’s talent to the fore. Make no mistake; he’s quite a man behind the camera. He delivers what he intends to and that’s not what everybody can do. But what he aims for is in my humble opinion wrong. Gibson is a much better director but his sensibilities are all in the wrong place. His style of movie making is fine when it comes to personal projects as THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST or non-political movies like BRAVEHEART. But he makes here a serious attempt at making some sort of socio-political commentary and he does nothing more than falling flat on his face. I was neither enlightened nor was I entertained. What transpired simply put was a regular action movie that honestly was over hyped. Gibson tries to bring some philosophy in place but nothing like that can gel with what he has shown.
APOCALYPTO does break new grounds over the commercial ability of the subtitled movies. What becomes now of foreign language movies is to be seen. The movie is enjoyable when seen with no political tones. I would even recommend it as a passable entertainer, of course to viewers who can take in the gore. But anyone who would try to connect his history would be committing a great sin. There’s zero historical accuracy here. I am not one of those who go for factually correct movies but when a movie is showing something wrong, please have a reason for it. Case in point: JFK. But APOCALYPTO has no reason for recommendation other than fans of action, violence and gore. This is HOSTEL in the 16th century.

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