Monday, December 18, 2006


I went to see Mel Gibson's Apocalypto with Peter and Paul the other night, and still haven't decided whether I like it or not.

The positives:
-Awesome, awesome camera work for most of it, except for in the beginning...which was bad. I felt like I was watching a pilot episode of a low-budget wannabe airing on Discovery. Other than that, it lives up to the excitement Gibson generated with camera work in Braveheart.
-It is powerful. Some of the parts are very emotional, albeit visceral.
-Some great cinematography, especially the footage in what I'll call "the pit". (Don't want to give anything away, but if you've seen it you know what I mean.)
-Pretty good acting. I'll admit that I'm pretty easily convinced, but considering some of these guys were pros and some had never been in front of a camera before, they did a good job. I couldn't tell you who the experienced actors among them are, although the lead antagonist probably was.

The negatives:
-Totally unoriginal message. This is probably the most disappointing part of the whole movie for me, in fact I think I was muttering out loud to myself in the theatre when I picked up on it. The basic point of this movie is: if there is ever an apocalypse, it probably won't come in the form of some kind of external catastrophe like a meteorite or the sun blowing up...or, in this case, a Spanish Inquisition. No, we will probably destroy ourselves first. There's a part in the movie, a very obvious "calm before the storm" part where an elder is telling villagers around a bonfire a tale whose finishing line is something like, "man won't stop until he has consumed all the earth has to offer." Well thanks Al Gore, but if I wanted to know your Inconvenient Truth, I would have rented the documentary from Blockbuster.

I guess that really irked me because I was hoping that Mel Gibson, with all his fabulous power and charm, and presumably a desire to remove the subtitle of "antisemetic" from his name, would pull something utterly brilliant out of nowhere. Some profound revelation in Apocalyptic theory, if such a thing exists. But alas, it was not to be.

-Sucky jaguar. Like I said, I don't want to give too much away here, but...let's just say there's a part where they had some special effects that Peter Jackson or Lucas probably could have pulled off brilliantly, whereas Mel made me feel like I was briefly witnessing Kermit the Frog's cameo in his first R-rated debut.

-Some unsuccessful balancing of realism. See, most movies strike a balance between realistic and fantastic events. In Casino Royale, Bond pulls off some remarkable stunts in an atmosphere and situation that is entirely un-remarkable. The audience eats it up though, because hey, it's James Bond. There were maybe 2 parts in Apocalypto, though, where I was thinking, "Eh...this is kinda dumb."

So there you have it. Do remember though, this is only my opinion, which, as my old Media professor would say, says a lot more about me than the film. What's the final word? The movie's got some very good points and some not-so-goods, but I think I'll like it better once I see it again. In fact, right now I feel like it's something I'd like to own on DVD when it's out.

Just a side note: Something I've noticed with films lately is that films that you expect to be really "epic", (a term my friends and I throw around a lot lately) often aren't. I think it's got something to do with growing up and losing a lot of that juvenile sense of wonder, or...something. I remember going to see Disney's Tarzan in the theatre as a kid and thinking that was epic. (I still love Phil Collins though.) As I've grown older though, a lot of the movies you expect to blow your mind and just be hugely entertaining fall short of the mark. Examples that come to mind are the Spiderman movies (only somewhat), the Harry Potter movies especially, The Da Vinci Code, and so on. The next film I expect to be mind-blowingly awesome is Zack Snyder's 300, a movie based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller depicting the battle of Thermopylae (300 Spartans versus a freakload of Persians). The cinematography in this trailer alone is enough to make me jump up and down in anticipation like a little kid. I hope it doesn't disappoint.

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At 1:07 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

This post made me laugh - in the good way; the right parts were funny. Just thought I'd mention that because I often wonder if I succeed at amusing people in my own posts. Generally I don't think I'm a very funny person.

I have never heard of the movie... I feel very out of the loop. :\

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

Oh erm, when I said I was coming home tomorrow, I actually meant TODAY's tomorrow. Sorry about that. ^^

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Brillo said...

Thaaaanks! ^^
Yeah I knew what day you meant. Coolness.

At 10:18 PM, Blogger Spunk Maestro said...

I have to completely disagree with your review. But I guess you already know that I loved the movie.

#1. The camera work in the beginning was not bad, although it was unusual. I believe this movie has the most amazing camera work I have ever seen.

#2 Your wrong on its message. It is clearly identified in the quote that appears at the beginning of the movie: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” By the historian Will Durant. Which in my opinion is a quite interesting and original theme. You are then making ridiculous and insulting extrapolations by relating it to Al Gore and problems of our modern time, all on one line of dialog. In my opinion this movie is a look into a very interesting culture and also a great action movie, it has little to do with message. Especially when it is compared to other Mel Gibson works like Braveheart where the protagonist screams "FREEDOM!" every 5 minutes or Passion of Christ where... well I think you can figure that one out.

BTW: the Spanish inquisition was when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella began a severe, ecclesiastical tribunal for the suppression of heresy and the protection of Catholicism in Spain... it has nothing to do with the Spanish colonization.

#3 The Jaguar was a real Jaguar up until the part where it dies of course. I found nothing unreal about it.

#4 I was actually amazed of how much effort they put into making the fighting realistic. The main character never kills anyone without a really tough fight and getting seriously hurt in the process. Whereas in many movies such as James Bond or LoTR enemies are dispatched like flies. Its very exciting and I enjoyed the balance between amazement and reality.

well thats my opinion and I think both of us definitely need to see it again.


At 12:22 PM, Blogger Brillo said...

Pete - I mean, Spunk -

You got me on the spanish inquisition bit. My bad. And I can accept all of your responses except number 2.

I also had that quotation from Durant in mind when I was talking about the message. I think it goes hand in hand with the campfire story. Both are talking about civilization hurting itself in some way. (The first with the idea of "conquering" and the second with the idea of "sucking your resources dry".) To that end, I don't think drawing a comparison to problems of our modern time is ridiculous or insulting at all. If anything is insulting, it's your suggestion that this movie was made with such carelessness that such "details" weren't processed and accounted for. Something I learned studying modern media is that, even in something as brief as a commercial, millions of dollars are put into it and it's carefully reviewed a gajillion times. *Nothing* in a commercial or film is haphazzard, and everything is important - especially the message. Sure, movies like Braveheart are a lot about the action and otherwise innovative filmwork, but they carry important messages too. That's why movies like Braveheart are famous, and movies like, say, District B13 aren't.

At 1:57 PM, Anonymous paul said...

I found the camera work at the beginning appalling myself, the framerate resembled home movie, I'm not sure of the exact mechanics/science of filming, but I think the framerate was too slow? Perhaps that's not what was happening at all, but the effects seemed left out, and it felt like a bunch of kids running through a forest in a home movie. The camera work in the rest of the movie was nothing to make note of.

Whether or not the jaguar was real or not is irrelevant, it didn't *look* real, and if it doesn't *look* real, it may aswell be fake. It looked animatronic in the tree, the chewing up scene, I can't really say.

The fighting was reasonably realistic, except for the 'run and we shoot arrows at you' scene. They were running at a fast pace when the camera was close, but when the camera was farther away, you could see it was a light jog. If you were running for your life, you would be able to cover the whole of that dusty stretch in 15 seconds, nevermind a whole minute.

What I found particularly annoying was the accuracy of the arrows/javelins. Give me a break! The speed of the running people, mixed with the imperfections in the weapons due to their hand-made nature would cause them to miss wildly.

The fact that one of them is speared straight through the chest while running zig-zag is absurd. You can't say james bond has unrealistic fights when you include a ridiculous scene as i mentioned.

As far as the message goes, I think you and Pete are overanalyzing, to me the message is:

We'll kill ourselves off before something else comes and does.

And it's not really much of an original message either.

As a last word, the guy gets an arrow through his chest and keeps going for miles, you have to strike a balance between getting hurt so its not lame, but not getting hurt enough that its like, ok, he can take a bullet but just keeps going?

Well this ended up being way longer than I intended, but those are my thoughts.

At 2:03 PM, Anonymous paul said...

Ok, you'll scoff at this comment Pete, but you can sort of compare the message of the movie to the borg invasion in star trek.

The Romulans and Klingons are fighting each other, as well as the Federation and Dominion along with some other lesser groups. They're all fighting amongst each other, and if they don't stop and ally with each other, they'll all die to the borg.

Another is warcraft. The orcs, humans and night elves (horde and alliance basically I guess) all have to join together to defeat the burning legion.


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