Monday, September 24, 2012


Mel Gibson is a nut. But when it comes to being a filmmaker he's a truly talented nut. His first directorial outing was The Man Without A Face. Meh. Then there was the epic Braveheart. He showed us all that he has what it takes to tell a great story entertainingly. Then there was The Passion of the Christ. A lot of people tell me that the film moved them beyond words. I'm not among them, but I have to admit that it sure looked good for a glorified snuff film.

Now we get Apocalpyto. An epic ride of a movie about a Mayan hunter who witnesses his village get ransacked by Aztec thugs, gets kidnapped in order to be sacrificed to their Gods, and ends up in a race to save not only his own life, but that of his pregnant wife and child.
Visually speaking, this is a stunning looking film. The HD cinematography is always interesting to look at, and like The Fountain it's a visual experience. Great and complex shots that seem impossible to do in the middle of a jungle are pulled off flawlessly and just give this movie the epic feel it needs to succeed.

The unknown actors are all very good, despite the fact that they had to learn a dead language (or whatever comes close to it) for their roles. All the weird tattoos and piercings added to the characters (and helped us to tell them apart from one another). I really liked Rudy Youngblood as Jaguar Paw (the lead) and whoever played his cousin (the one who ate the boar's balls). He had a great story arc.

James Horner's epic score was great as well. Over the years I've really grown to dislike this guy's compositions (all of them seemed to either copy his Aliens/Patriot Games or Braveheart/Titanic scores), but here he totally surprised me with his work. I'm all over the CD. 
And while there really wasn't a whole lot of talking in the movie it's told in such a visual and visceral way that it really pulls you in and never really lets you go. It's fast, graphically violent and moving at times. When Jaguar Paw is running from that jungle cat you are breathing heavy along with him. When he is standing in the queue awaiting his execution, you feel his fear and anxiety. When he witnesses all of the decadence and barbarism of the Aztecs, you feel disgusted and appalled along with him.

The movie offers no explanations as to where these civilizations disappeared to, but it gives a glimmer as to one of the root causes (but it's nothing that would cause them to vanish overnight like we're lead to believe). That’s fine with me. The way the movie ends is the only way I could possibly see it coming to a close.

My only gripes are that some of the events that occur just come off as a little goofy and ham fisted. I can understand the hunters fucking with one of their group by tricking him into eating a boar's balls and such, but the whole "I'm shooting blanks" angle and solution comes off as overly comical and out of place. Some of the dialogue comes off as too modern as well. I highly doubt that an Aztec would say "We're FUCKED", let alone using the word "balls" to describe an animal's testicles. Also, the birthing scene was too goofy looking. Seriously, there’s an underwater shot of the baby popping out of his mother's pooter like a bullet out of a gun. It looked so friggin’ dumb.
The violence in the movie was totally overhyped. While this is a graphic film, it's nothing compared to what was on display in, say, Saw III. That was hard to watch at times due to how in your face it was. Here we get violence, but it's either shown in a quick cut or it's off-screen. The only thing I considered nasty is when that Aztec dude gets his face bitten by the jaguar and you see his jaw dislocate. It's nothing when compared to The Passion of the Christ.

In the end, it's an amazing achievement on Gibson's part artistically and thematically. It's also a shock that a studio was ballsy enough to release a movie like this so close to the holidays. Whatever the case may be, it's a hell of a flick and I highly recommend it, as it's one of my favorite movies of the year. Actually, it's in my Top Five.

5 out of 5

*written 12/10/06

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