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  Apocalypto


Mel Gibson, USA, 2006

Rating: 3.0

 

Posted: December 21, 2006

Letís get this out of the way now: Mel Gibson is one crazy bastard! But I love the guy. Say what you will, my boy puts up his own money to make the films no one else has the nuts to touch. Like me, he has a dream. And unlike me, he has obscene stockpiles of cash to make those dreams come true. You just canít take the wind out of this dudeís sails. He wanted to make a film about the last days of the Mayan civilization, and just like that, Apocalypto was born! Okay, maybe it wasn't that simple, but Iím sure it was pretty close.

The film follows the trials of one Jaguar Paw, a husband, father and porcine testicle-waving practical joker, among other things. We get to see his village and come to discover that the concerns of the average Mayan were not that far removed from the concerns of modern man. He has to go get food, take care of the kids, and be nagged by his judgmental, wizened crone of a mother-in-law. And hey, who hasnít been yanked from their homes, marched to a nearby village, painted blue and sold into slavery? Am I right, people? Uh ... letís just move on.

As much as these dudes brag about hunting the forest for generations, they must have not wandered far, because about five city blocks away is a huge Mayan city of stone. Its inhabitants have raided Jaguar Pawís village, killed his pops and taken the survivors to be sacrifices to the gods. Basically this involves being marched up a huge pyramid, having your heart cut out and shown to you, getting decapitated and then having you head tumble down about four hundred stone stairs. These Mayans donít play.

Anyway, as Jaguar Paw is ushered off to meet his doom, his son and pregnant wife are left behind in a pit, where he hopes they will remain undiscovered and safe. Will Jaguar Paw be able to escape and save his family? Thus begins Apocalyptoís descent into what I like to call a ďcar chase movie without cars.Ē Gone is the interaction between the villagers, the clash of the ďurbanĒ Mayans with their ďjungleĒ brethren. All that is replaced with chase after chase after chase.

Having said that, Mel Gibson knows how to shoot a scene. Apocalypto is replete with fantastic cinematography and stunning visuals. They're so powerful, in fact, that they almost make up for the films lack of substance. Almost. Let's face it: Making a film about an incredible event does not automatically yield a great film. Apocalypto comes across as a bit hollow. With that in mind, everything must be put into perspective. It's one thing to attempt an ambitious endeavor and fall a bit short, and another to make Meatballs II and succeed. You feelin' me?

If I could change one thing about the film, it's the ending, which feels, shall we say, a tad historically inaccurate. In my version, I'd have the characters chase one another through the jungle and then reach the waters where they find -- thatís right, the Predators! This wouldn't be a problem because we all know they helped the Mayans build great temples and pyramids. Now thereís a little twist that can make a film -- you hear me, Mel? Anyway, suffice it to say that thereís enough in Apocalypto to hold your interest, if not make you hold your breath. At the very least, it's a visually compelling work that shows what one man with a dream (and boatloads of money) can do.

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 Clemenza's Ratings Key:

 5.0: A drop of bliss

 4.0-4.9: Touchdown!
 3.0-3.9: Close, but...
 2.0-2.9: Box of Rocks
 1.1-1.9: Time bandit
 0.0-1.0: Soul scarring
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