Posted at 2:40 PM on March 10, 2008
by Euan Kerr
Having heard about the violence in "Apocalypto," I'll admit to some wariness as I popped the DVD into the player over the weekend. And yes, it is more than a little bloody, although given the subject is warring Mayan tribal groups, it all makes sense.
I wasn't prepared for a couple of other things though. First of all, as I was on an out of town trip, I decided to watch the flick on my computer. This turned out to be a mistake as the laptop had real problems digesting the material, and the image kept disappearing. Also, for some reason (perhaps the same cyber-intestinal discomfort,) the subtitles never appeared, despite several fiddles with the submenu. I'd actually got to the point of deciding this was clearly all part of the Mel Gibson conceit, and was going with it, until the flickering picture made me give up.
Round two back at the house, things worked much better and while I had been following the story pretty well, the subtitles added important dimensions. Pre-Columbian America is a fascinating time, and kudos to Gibson for exploring this story. We follow the story of Jaguar Paw, a young man living in an isolated jungle village, which is raided by warriors from a much larger city nearby looking for slaves and human sacrifices.
The art direction on this film is incredible, with extraordinary costumes for the hundreds of extras and an entire Mayan city built for the film. It's just stunning to watch, from the lush colors of the jungle to the intricate ornamentation on the people and buildings.
At it's heart (and I use that word carefully given this movie,) "Apocalypto" is an action flick too, a kind of historic Mad Max with blowpipes and ear-spools.
And that's when Gibson pulled the rug out.
I was really enjoying the movie until five minutes from the end when I realized what was going to happen. No spoilers here, but I found myself thinking "Oh, no, he could end this in one of two ways and both of them would be cop-outs."
And then Gibson did them both.
I haven't been this cheesed off about the ending of a film in ages. It was just too easy, and undermines all the work earlier in the film.
So I am going to make the same suggestion that Stephanie Curtis made about "The Lives of Others" (although she was wrong,) and suggest that if you watch this at home, keep an eye on the clock and shut it down at about the 130 minute mark. You'll be doing yourself a favor.
I hate it when a movie can't "close" the deal.
For me, Euan, A.I. does the same thing and the movie should have ended (although "unhappily") at the point where David and Teddy crash to the bottom of the harbor.
The remainder of the movie is frustrating and banal at the same time.
I was following the review pretty well until Euan copped out in the end. This movie did close the deal!
The Mayans from the city with their institutionalized form of thinking will be choosing the new institutions being brought by the Spanish. The Jaguar Paws' of the world rely on their own instincts and resources, in full self confidence, and return to the jungle world of their ancestors.
Watch it all the way to the end. There is no need for an unhappy ending, which seems to be so popular, and institutional, these days.