Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" is easily the most maddening movie I've seen this year. In his "epic" tale about Mayan society, there are definite moments of beauty, but that all gets buried in a soul-battering barrage of gore that would make any slasher filmmaker smile. And for that reason, it's a failure.
So why, despite all the warnings, was I expecting more? The very clever marketing promised an epic story, but what we get - while at times compelling - doesn't even come close.
It's essentially an action movie, similar in theme to "Braveheart." A young hunter, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), is taken captive along with many of his tribemates as a rival tribe burns down their village (and if tribe is the politically incorrect word here, forgive me; I mean no offense). He hides his very pregnant wife and son in a deep pit, and the rest of the story involves whether or not he will be able to escape his enslavement to rescue them.
Note, it is NOT about why the Mayan society went on the decline or anything else so noble, but there are still some stirring images that will linger on your brain. The human sacrifice in front of a Mayan temple, while hideous, is an electric scene, and the second half, essentially a chase through the jungle forest, has a real rush to it.
But as the gore piles up, I became numb to all of this or anything else Mel may have been going for. I never saw any of those "Faces of Death" flicks, but I could picture Mel doing so, with a checklist. Just about every possibly primitive but highly effective way to kill a man or beast is represented in "Apocalypto," and the cumulitive effect is simply disgusting.
It's a tired theme for sure, but I couldn't help but wonder where the hell the MPAA was in all this. Especially as I heard a poor crying baby who was dragged in to watch men getting beheaded and dehearted (I know that's not a word, but you get the picture) again and again, I had to wonder just how violent a movie has to be to get an NC-17 rating.
In making his movie so sickening, however, Mel has done a real favor to Oscar voters. I don't think he'll be in the running for Best Picture or director, and the ultraviolence here gives voters an easy - and correct, in my opinion - out. I do think Rudy Youngblood will get an Oscar nomination, as much for the bravura of his peformance as for the sheer torture he must have gone through to deliver it.
At the end of all this, I have to say I just felt dirty. Like an enabler of Mel's sick view of the world. And like any true enabler, I promise I won't be back, and hope this time I can stick to that promise.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Posted by Reel Fanatic at 5:15 AM