Review by Mark Walters


 It's safe to say I'm a fan of Mel Gibson. I grew up watching movies starring the Australian-born actor, and have always found him to be a likable performer. He's proven himself to be a solid director as well, with powerful films like BRAVEHEART and THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. That man knows movies, inside and out. Recently there's been quite a bit of controversy in Hollywood. Events such as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes secretive wedding and baby, Angelina Jolie or Madonna adopting a child from a third world country, or even SEINFELD star Michael Richards spouting off racial slurs at a comedy club seem to be the kind of headlines that currently control the media. But one of the year's most memorable events involving a celebrity came from Mel Gibson's drunken arrest, during which he made several hateful comments about Jews. Since then Gibson has talked about it openly (or as openly as one can in Hollywood), stating that the real problem was his drinking, and that the hatred coming out of him was only a result of the alcohol. Whether you believe that or not, it's hard not to acknowledge the timing for when these types of events seem to happen. Gibson made waves and big impressions with THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, shocking many audiences with its graphic violence, and wowing others who may not have considered the extreme nature of the story it depicts. Now Mel is tackling another controversial story, exploring the history of the Mayan culture in his new film APOCALYPTO... a controversial film that comes right on the heels of a controversial time for the popular Hollywood icon.

 The film opens in the forest, introducing us to a seemingly peaceful Mayan tribe. Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) and his hunter buddies track and kill a wild boar, and head home to enjoy a routinely peaceful day inside their meager village. Along the way they come across a small group of Mayans who have clearly suffered some sort of attack. Haunted and afraid these folks keep moving, not revealing what happened. The next morning, Jaguar Paw and his tribe are attacked without warning in their village. Amidst the chaos, he manages to sneak his pregnant wife and son into a nearby deep pit, with the hopes of rescuing them later. The tribe's men and women, including Jaguar Paw, are tied to posts and marched away from their destroyed camp. The children, including babies, are all left behind. The marauders march them all to a heavily populated city, filled with tall colorful temples. It's there the captives realize that their women are to be sold into slavery, and the men are to be used as human sacrifices for the city's gods. Through it all, Jaguar Paw can only think about saving his family, if only he could escape.

 This film is pretty amazing.  Mel Gibson definitely knows how to enthrall us as an audience, and truly take us on a journey.  That said, I would have a hard time telling you what the definitive story is here, aside from Jaguar Paw trying to get back to his family.  Much of the film deals with exploring Mayan culture and rituals, throwing story to the side.  Now that's not necessarily a bad thing.  This remains a fascinating experience, and does a fine job of pulling back the curtain a bit on this often misunderstood civilization.  Now as with most movies, there are good guys and bad guys here.  But it's ultimately a matter of perspective.  After all, who are we to say that anyone's religious rituals are wrong... though human sacrifice may have been going a tad overboard.  The movie is incredibly violent and gory, sometimes too much so.  As with PASSION, there are some scenes that will test the limits of your sensitivity.  Maybe this is Gibson's way of slapping us in the face, and telling us to forget what we know about filmmaking.  In the end, I can't imagine anyone else making a movie quite like this.  It is unique, it is intense, and it is spectacular.  Should you see it?  Yes.  Everyone should.  The Mayan culture is one most people know little to nothing about.  I found it educational and effective.  There was some question going in as to whether the use of subtitles would distract from the experience.  It's doesn't.  Mel's use of the original language is handled well.  If there are any negatives, they would lie in the length (two hours and fifteen minutes), and the often overly excessive violence.  There is also one particular translation late in the film which just didn't seem to fit, even evoking laughter from many of the audience members.  But otherwise this is about as authentic as it gets, warts and all.  Special nod to actor Rudy Youngblood, who really hits it out of the park in this.  I expect we'll be seeing much more from him.  You can say what you want about Mel Gibson as a person, but as a director he remains a force to be reckoned with.

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best, I give APOCALYPTO an 8.

Visit the official Touchstone Pictures APOCALYPTO movie website by clicking here.

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