Passion of the Christ," Director Mel Gibson's new
feature "Ápocalypto" was expected to be a religious
themed motion picture of anti Semitic propaganda.
This summer’s well publicized drunken outburst from
Gibson did little to dissuade his critics.
Separating fact from fiction, Gibson created a motion
picture that is a throwback to the simple days of the
silent screen. In fact, with the exception of the
final two minutes of the film, Mel Gibson's new epic
could have been titled "The Adventures of Jaguar
Paw," instead of "Ápocalypto."
Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) is the husband of a very
pregnant wife (Dalia Hernandez) and a father to a son.
While on a hunting trip with the boys in Pre Colombian
Mexico, Jaguar Paw reveals himself to be a prankster,
similar to the Mel Gibson character for the "Lethal
Weapon" movies. After a ceremonial slaughter of a
beast for survival, Jaguar Paw, his father and various
tribesmen, spend the rest of the day celebrating the
bounty of their labors.
The next day the village is ransacked by urban
warriors of the Mayan temple. Jaguar Paw witnesses
the murder of his father, whose last words to his son
“My son, do not do be afraid.”
Jaguar Paw and his neighbors are herded like sheep to
the temple of doom to be sacrificed. Heeding his
father's advice, Jaguar Paw keeps his cool, outwits
his captors and attempts to rescue his family.
Minus CGI special effects and science fiction
reference points, "Ápocalypto" has much in common
with the perils of Pauline, Buster Keaton and Anthony
Mann westerns. While characters speak in a dead Mayan
language, "Ápocalypto" is a visual treat with well
executed stunts and suspense.
The scenes at the temple merges "Ápocalypto" into a
horror movie with shades of "The Wicker Man." These
sequences earn an “R” rating and features ritualized
murder of Jaguar Paw's villagers with echoes of
slaughtering of the beast earlier in the movie. As
the royalty and high priests murder the tribesmen, a
spoiled fat royal child is seen acting bratty and
bored. The participants cheer as if they have
attended Hugo Chavez's re election rally. These
coldhearted details provide depth to the cruelty that
Jaguar Paw (and the audience) faces.
There is also bucolic beauty of the cinematography.
The quiet moments of "Apocalypto" provide visual
beauty of untarnished landscapes and multi colored
sunsets. "Apocalypto" also features "National
Geographic nudity that does not titillate. In fact,
the nudity adds an innocent dimension of Jaguar Paw’s
Eden before being cast out of paradise.
In the heart of darkness, the hero finds salvation.
As Jaguar Paw escapes the madness of the urban
environment, the forest becomes his refuge. The
spiritual nature of becoming connected to the pure
environment. This transition from inferno to paradise
is what makes "Apocalypto" a triumph for the audience.