Student Voice


May 23, 2024



'Apocalypto' a typical gruesome Gibson film

December 14, 2006

An article was printed in The New York Times last week claiming many new release films are incredibly violent, one of which is Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto.”

Gibson has made a name for himself in the past by creating pieces that have been particularly gruesome, and he doesn’t seem to slow down. “Apocalypto” is brutal, but not as extreme as “The Passion.”

In this story we go back centuries ago to the Mayan civilization, at a time when the culture was crumbling in on itself. With the introduction of a mysterious infectious disease and crop failure, the panicking masses turn toward their religious leaders for guidance, who in turn demand human sacrifice.

As a result, raiding parties stretch outward into the jungle, capturing adults from nearby scattered villages.

This is how the hunter, Jaguar Paw, becomes involved. Living in a hospitable community filled with game, he lives happily. People are lighthearted here without worry and are instead preoccupied with playing pranks on each other.

But early one morning a party surrounds the village capturing and killing many. Hiding his wife during the assault, Jaguar Paw vows to return to her and his son.

There were aspects to this film I liked, such as the authenticity of story comes. People are wearing indigenous dress with numerous piercings, and even the hairstyles are exotic. Tools and weapons are simple, consisting of wooden clubs and stone knives.

Like “The Passion,” the characters speak an indigenous language. Using a culture’s native language in film has become more common in recent years instead of English, and I’ve developed an appreciation for this. It sets the atmosphere, making the characters more realistic. Gibson even hired all Native American actors.

Huts and lush jungle vegetation spot the landscape, contrasting well with the strange urban dwelling the captives are brought to.

There were also parts to the film I didn’t like. For one thing, we aren’t given a clear explanation for why things happen in the city. Like or what is that white stuff that’s being ground up? Is it salt, or possibly limestone? We never know.

Some parts were just too unrealistic for me, like when Jaguar Paw is able to outrun a chasing panther for an extended period of time. Or when he was capable of running nonstop well into the following morning, despite the fact that a spear had just pierced through his gut.

I also had a big problem with the ending. You see Spanish conquistadors arriving on shore, but that would’ve never happened in real life, considering the Mayan civilization had already died out more than 500 years before Spanish arrival.

In the end, “Apocalypto” had a unique plot, but questions went unanswered. The film editing helped the two hours go by quickly, but sometimes the camera shook too much, creating a sense of disorientation and confusion.

Authenticity was made, but you don’t know why things are happening, random acts are occurring without a clear understanding.

If anything, I thought it was mediocre —  a movie that was just OK. It’s been said that it’s too violent, of which I disagree. This consisted of mostly beating, not gore. For in the end, the violence is really what kept the film going.

Nick Welsh is a student at UW-River Falls.