Saturday, December 09, 2006

Apocalypto: Making Old Feel New

I have concluded, just recently (and by recently I mean as I am typing this sentence), that every conceivable idea for a story has been told. Well, that’s not entirely true, but just about every story that a movie could tell has been told. For example, my five favorite movies of 2006 were either remakes (The Departed), film adaptations of a TV show (Miami Vice), had no story at all (Jackass II, Borat), or, like the fifth, Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, is a story we’ve all heard several times before. Have you ever seen Braveheart? How about Gladiator? Have you ever seen any movie in which the protagonist must overcome great odds to avenge the death of loved ones while set within an historically important time period? Yes? Well, then you’ll be familiar with the plot of Apocalypto. Gibson, however, has taken that story—a story that he himself has already told—and made it something completely new. Because of the language (Yucatec, I believe), the imagery, and the context, never once does Apocalypto feel rehashed. On the contrary, Gibson has created an experience that is quite refreshing, a stunning accomplishment considering the amount of death, violence, and gore within the film. In short, I loved it, and amazingly consider it even better than The Departed. Will you like it? Here are a few quick points to help you decide if Apocolypto is for you.

• I’ll say it again: this movie is gory. It’s not quite as bad as Passion of the Christ, but it still has more gore than 95 percent of all movies. Within the right context—such as this film and Kill Bill— the gore is not only welcome, but necessary. If you’re squeamish or need religious justification behind your blood and violence, however, Apocalypto may not be for you.
• Speaking of Passion of the Christ, I hated that fucking movie. I have to make my apologies to War of the Worlds, which I have often cited as the worst movie I have ever seen in a theater. Passion is by far worse. Nothing happens in that movie but a man getting beaten and ripped apart in terribly gruesome ways. If you doubt that he literally resurrected, as I do, then it makes the whole movie a waste of time and all of that suffering pointless. And without justification, the only way the gore works for me is if it has humor in it, but, alas, the death of our Lord and Savior is something few people--Gibson included--find humor in. In fact, if the movie were the exact same but were about Joe Roman instead of Jesus Christ, I firmly believe it would be panned as one of the worst movies ever made. Now, if you agree with me even partly, and hold a grudge against Mel Gibson for that movie or for his personal beliefs regarding Catholicism or Judaism, don’t let it keep you from going to see Apocalypto. The only holdover from Passion is the gore, but as I stated earlier, it is welcome and necessary. One could even argue that Apocalypto comes off as anti-religion (although I’m not sure if that sentiment is intended) and anti-imperialism (which would seem to jive against the idea that Gibson is a red state hero). If anything, Apocalypto paints Gibson as a true renegade maverick of Hollywood who is as gifted a director as he is a crazy bigot.
• The movie does have subtitles, but there isn’t much being said (in a quantity sense, not a quality one), so that shouldn’t be a detriment. Having the movie in a foreign language is a big help to the atmosphere, as well, and the language itself actually sounds pretty sweet.
• I’m still undecided on the animal scenes. On the one hand, the scenes provide a glimpse at how wild the wilderness still was back then and are another very unique addition to the historical epic genre. On the other hand, the animal models are pretty goddamn fake-looking.
• The movie is nearly 2 ½ hours long, but it never feels like it. The action moves swiftly, and Gibson never allows the movie to rest in one setting for too long. In fact, it will probably be the quickest 2 ½ hours you’ll ever spend doing anything (other than sleeping, of course). Unlike other epics—classics like Gladiator and Braveheart included—Apocalypto never slows down or drags. Perhaps it will upon another viewing, but, honestly, the setting and sounds and people are so fresh that every scene, even if it’s something as clich├ęd as a father-son counseling session (of which there are two in Apocalypto), feels like something you’ve never seen before. I know I was going to list things so you could decide if you want to see this for yourself, but fuck you. You don’t know what you should be watching. I’m telling you, go see this and skip the retarded-ass Unattended Minors you were going to see instead. Until next time, don’t make anymore animated films number one at the box-office!

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