Newest Review: ... and heads on top of them. The hero of the film is the athletic 'Jaguar Paw' (Rudy Youngblood), who has just enough time to lower his... more
Its the end of the world as we know it.
Member Name: steerpyke
Date: 20/02/07, updated on 21/02/07 (443 review reads)
Advantages: great action, great story
Disadvantages: a bit gory and fairly long
What ever you think of Gibson, love him or loathe him you cannot deny that he has turned into to a maker of epic films. Think the flair and spectacle of Cecil B DeMille, combined with the graphic violence of Sam Peckenpah and you have the area that this troubled superstar is heading into. If you want to find a quick parallel for the film itself, well Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ both have much in common. There is the epic scale and action of the former and the dark haunting beauty and vivid brutality of the latter, but all factors combine well to make a truly watchable film for the most part.
The film opens in an unspecified time in an unknown rainforest where a group of tribal warriors are concluding a successful hunting trip. Before returning to the village with the day's catch they encounter a group of refugees who ask to be allowed to cross their lands in peace as unknown raiders have ravaged their own village. This troubles Jaguar Paw, the films lead played by virtual unknown Rudy Youngblood, but he is told to put it from his mind by his father as it will only breed fear in him. Their idyllic forest life is then shattered when a raiding party descends on the village an all that are not killed are captured. Amongst them is Jaguar Paw but not after he hides his pregnant wife and young child and promises he will return for them. The raiders turn out to be from the Mayan civilization and these raids are to provide the declining culture with slaves and sacrifice. A series of poor harvests have left the priests and leaders believing that their god has deserted them and only when he has been appeased in blood will he return them to his favour. The Mayans now in the twilight of their existence have descended into one long bloodletting machine to try to meet this end. Jaguar Paw escapes and the film concludes with his race to evade capture and return to rescue his family.
At two and quarter hours it is, in the spirit of recent filmmaking, a lot to sit through. One of the problems I found with the film is that Gibson seems to have found it necessary to over brutalise just about every scene of the middle portion of the film. The point is made time and time again in a wash of blood and gore that these Mayans are the bad guys and you get to a point when you want to say "okay Mel, we get your point" but he seems to want to keep on making it. Once in the Mayan city there is an interesting mix of dread and spectacle as majestic step pyramids rise into the heavens only to have decapitated heads and rivers of blood cascade from them. This gory circus is played out under the direction of a man with a showman's pace and ability. The second half of the film takes us in a different direction again. Away from the evils of the Mayan city, Jaguar Paws flight from his pursuers is reminiscent of Stallone's flight from the local sheriffs men in the backwaters of Oregon. One man using the natural resource of the jungle to set traps and out wit a dozen authority figures on his trail. Having said that it is still well done and provides a non-stop action sequence that is mesmerising if not overly original.
What really makes the film work is the humanisation of the good guys. From the opening scene we see the villagers as a friendly, proud and very likable group, family orientated and loving. The main character is an athletic young man who has long flowing locks, sports tattoos, designed body scars, large ear adornments and a sort of chin plug, and wears nothing but a well-fitted loin cloth, obviously the good guy. The Mayan raiders stand out easily as the baddies as their tattoos are more nasty and they are adorned in animal skulls and grotesque armour and most of them look like they had just walked off of the set of Mad Max II, coincidence I am sure. The final message hits hope in a fairly obvious fashion as Jaguar Paw and two of his would-be killers witness the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors and the morale circle is complete. You Mayans have had your day, if you thought you were nasty, just wait to see what these guys have in store for you and Karma has done its job.
The casting was excellent and considering that the entire cast are virtual unknowns and are made up of mainly Native Americans who had to learn Yucatec to make the dialogue authentic, much praise is deserved, again parallels with The Passion of the Christ. The film itself is subtitled but don't let that put you off. In the same way that in The Passion of the Christ you pretty much new what was happening without needing to follow every line, the same is true here. More so really as the last 45 minutes of the film being the equivalent of a car chase scene there is little dialogue anyway just headlong adrenalin rush through the jungle, action all the way. Apocolyto is brutal, it is an eighteen rate, and doesn't hold back. Historians may have something to say about the portrayal of the Mayan society but Gibson was never trying to make a documentary here anyway, just a rip roaring action film and like Braveheart and The Patriot before you need to put the books down and just enjoy the ride.
Summary: Passion of the Christ meets Braveheart.