Mel Gibson should just break down and call his next movie Violence and Subtitles.

Okay, I know he broke down… but I mean… you know what I mean.

0This is Apocalypto and while it may sound to you like the iced tea of the end times, it’s a story about the final decades of the Mayan civilization in Mexico and how a young warrior pup named Jaguar Paw goes to Hell and back trying to get back to his family who has escaped the sacking of his village while he himself is escaping those very sackers who want to turn him into a human sacrifice and his head into a slinky down those steep pyramid steps.

The film is ultra-violent, filmed completely with an ancient dialect and subtitles, and seems to never loose intensity.  If Mel Gibson does end up never appearing in another film due to his drunken anti-Semetic stupidity, the screen’s loss will be the director chair’s gain.  I think it’s where he was meant to sit.  After all, two films in a row now in a foreign (and extinct) dialect and he made me sit through an enjoy both of them.  Go figure.

It is Mel that I credit the most of this film’s success with.  He seems to get that, in order to be shocked by acts of death and violence, the audience has to care about the people that the death and violence are happening to.  I know it’s a weak comparison, but I’m sick so cut me some slack:  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning… just as much gore and violence and yet, nothing made me feel sorry for a single character.  It was like watching bugs hit a windshield.  Apocalypto, however, introduces you to characters and makes you affectionate for them, be it the scared little man leading his people through the forest or a guy who’s having mother-in-law problems.  You know these people, you like these people, and you want them to be okay.  When they’re not, it’s hurts!

It’s fun to see a Mayan Thriller.  Personally, aside from maybe (maybe) The Road to El Dorado, I haven’t seen anything close to this kind of movie.  It was fascinating, to tell you the truth and while I’m sure it was not completely accurate, getting introduced to a new civilization was both fascinating and comforting.  Seeing differences and similarities, both positive and negative, was very interesting.  They may be half-naked, pierced, tattooed, scarred, and living out in the middle of a jungle, but they love like we do, they hate like we do, and they laugh like we do.

With some powerful performances from some very talented unknowns, some great production values, and a story that harkens to our own time and situation in a way that few films have been able to do, Apocalypto is a movie concocted by a man with demons and he has put those demons on screen for us all to look at.

The result is uneasy entertainment… something beautiful, ugly, and prophetic.  People seem to be focusing on the gore and sadism in this movie, but I say look beyond that and you’ll love what you see.

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About the author

Jason Donner

Jason Donner devoured the universe and you are all living inside him.