Apocalypto

Michael Szul reviews Apocalypto, directed by Mel Gibson, from the Key 23 archives.

With the 2012 meme hot on the minds of alternative archeologists, occultists, religious fanatics, and the rest of us crazy people, the Mayan civilization has started its steep upward climb back into the minds of modern civilizations. Mel Gibson – fresh off of his Passion of the Christ work, in which he laughed at traditional movie distribution all the way to the bank – decided to try his hand at the ancient civilization equation with his Mayan epic Apocalypto.

As the title suggests, this is a story about the beginning of the end of the Mayan civilization, as told through the narrative of Jaguar Paw. His village invaded, and his people captured, Jaguar Paw is trekked across the Mexican jungle to a great Mayan city to be sacrificed. His only goal: surviving to get back to his wife, whom he left down a shallow cavern to save her.

Jaguar Paw’s ordeal is your traditional action/adventure; but his story allows Mel Gibson to give viewers a glimpse into the world of the declining Mayan civilization during a time of an immense drought, waning resources, and resulting in a large number of human sacrifices.

The movie, for the most part, is historically accurate, with some liberties taken to enhance the awe of the spectacle. Many people have complained about the movie being inherently racist with its portrayal of the Mayan’s as bloodthirsty savages; and though I will admit that the scientific and mathematical accomplishments of the Maya were glossed over in favor of the human sacrifice, we do know that a great deal of human sacrifice did occur during the Mayan decline. Gibson may have portrayed the Maya as overtly savage, but the scenes between Zero Wolf and his son showed compassion, and the city scenes showed a complex society built on more than just bloodshed.

Another complaint that a few had, was that they felt Gibson was portraying the conquistadores at the end as the “saviors with crosses” of these savage people. I disagree. If this were the case, then Jaguar Paw would have been “saved” by the them. Instead, he returns to his wife and seeks a “new beginning” deeper into the forest, away from the Spanish.

The DVD contains a nice documentary about the making of the film. Particularly interesting is the making of the city and costumes. The deleted scenes – or should I say scene – only contains one brief moment where an injured deer passes by.

The film itself is phenomenally entertaining and anyone caught up in the 2012 meme – or anyone who’s an ancient cultures buff – would do themselves a good deed by sitting down and watching it.