on 14 January 2009
I first saw Apocalypto when it was released on DVD about a year and a half ago. I found the film to be original and impressive; a breath of fresh air in a historical genre that had become predictable and stale.
Whatever you think of Mel Gibson as a person, it's hard to deny that he's a good director. Apocalypto was a huge financial risk on his part, considering he'd taken a very obscure part of history and put his own inventive, original twist on the story. It took a lot of guts to cast unknown Native American actors and have them speak in the Maya language; a risk that most conventional directors would have never taken as it would have beeen box office suicide (especially when you consider the 18 rating).
The result is one of the most breathtaking, exciting and vibrant historical epics of the last few years. Gibson took a story that most Hollywood film executives wouldn't touch, and made it into a heart pounding and exhilirating action-adventure.
Although the film might sound like your typical art film (subtitles, unknown actors, elaborate costumes, 138 minute running time) Gibson manages to make the film easily understandable without sacrificing its substance. The film although set in the past, is hardly a history lesson. If anything, the film has been widely criticised for its numerous historical inaccuracies, perhaps the largest being that the film is set during the 16th century, but Classical Maya Civilisation had already collapsed between the late 9th and early 10th centuries.
With that in mind, it's worth covering the story which is simplistic but displayed with a lot of verve. It revolves around a young hunter named Jaguar Paw who lives in a isolated village, deep in the Yucatan Jungle. Soon enough, the idyll is disrupted when vicious Holcane Warriors descend on the village to slaughter and enslave its people. Jaguar Paw sends his pregnant wife and young son to the relative safety of an abandoned water well, but is himself captured.
He is led off on a trail that takes him to the decadent Maya city to be sacrificed to the gods. Making his escape, he must find a way back home to save his family, a journey fraught with danger, where the Holcane Warriors are never far behind.
The film is more action adventure than historical drama, and it works very well in that regard. The chase scenes are heart poundingly intense, while the fights are great, although considering its a Mel Gibson film, they are predictably gory - which is not to mention the scenes of human sacrifice - which Gibson portrays with disturbing relish.
This is the first Blu-ray film I've purchased and I chose it because I knew that the film was visually stunning: from the colourful costumes and sets, to the scenes of the natural world. I wasn't disappointed with the image quality, as it is displayed with crystal clear clarity on my 1080i screen. I had a copy of the Apocalypto DVD at hand to compare the two, and I can confirm that there is an obvious rise in quality, as the DVD version seems muddy and unclear in comparison.
The sound is also brilliant, as you can hear every leaf rustling in the background, and would no doubt be even more impressive on a good quality sound system (I only have small speakers).
In terms of special features, the Blu-ray is no different from the DVD. It contains a Backstage director's commentary from Mel Gibson and writer Farhad Safinia, as well as a short and rather pointless delted scene (in very poor quality) complete with its own commentary. There's also a 'Making of' documentary called Becoming Mayan, which explains the backstory for the film. The only original material is a section called 'Movie Showcase' which displays some of the best scenes from the film to showcase you "The Ultimate in High Defintion Picture and Sound".
This section is rather pointless considering you'll see these scenes anyway if you watch the film.
Overall this is a great film on a brilliant Blu-ray. It could have had more special features, but that aside it's a worthy purchase for anyone with a Blu-ray player.
No of disks: 1.
Rating: 18 (contains Strong Bloody Violence and Gore).
Running Time 138 Mins (2 hours 20 mins approx).
Image: 1080p High Definition/ 1.85:1 plus bonus 1080i & 1080p Definition.
Audio: Mayan 5.1 Uncompressed (48khz/24-bit)/English 5.1 Dolby digital.
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish. Bonus English SDH.
on 8 May 2008
The film is very good. Exciting, interesting, mysterious. I have 'only' given it four stars because I just felt something was missing, as well as for the historical inaccuracies.
I won't review the film much as there are so many other reviews. I did think I might be a bit bored by some 'adventure' film about native tribes in the forest, but actually it is very well done. The dialogue, although subtitled, is what brings the film to life. Quite fascinating really, I recommend seeing it. At some stages however the interactions of the various characters just do not ring true and the hollywood need for action becomes apparent.
The Blu Ray offers 5.1 and 5.1 uncompressed sound. No DTS. My current amp only plays 5.1 or DTS unfortunately, but the standard 5.1 sound was still very good.
The Blu Ray picture quality is excellent. Very vivid, some amazing scenes. There is a waterfall sequence that is particularly cool.
I'll start right off and say I practically loved this film, but let me state that I loved it for none of the reasons I was expecting I would, prior to the viewing. Upon loading the disc I was prepared for over two hours of deep cranial work taking in the destruction of the Mayan civilisation, perhaps an insightful look at this particular race of people and how they lived? What I got was actually one of the best action movies of the 00s!
Looking at the ream of reviews here and viewing all the threads across this particular site it is evident that I was not on my own in being torpedoed as to how the film panned out, was it Mel Gibson's intention from the off to do a straight action piece in subtitles ?, perhaps he started off to do a deep thinker but quickly realised that he could make a top dollar actioner instead? Either way this film delivers royally to those who get much from the action genre itself, and thankfully I count myself amongst that number.
Mel Gibson ups the violence quotient here, perhaps not quite for violence sake, but very nearly because it's part of a story that uses every cliché in the action film book, in essence the film is a simple chase/revenge plot piece, only here the added gimmick of a civilisation long past puts a bit more weight on the freshly stripped of skin bones. What lifts this film above your standard genre pieces tho is the great work Gibson does with his camera, he knows his money shots, he can frame a breathtaking scene very well indeed, and he manages to get tremendous performances from a largely unknown (and some never worked before) cast.
It's a pulse pounding thrilling movie with splendid dashes of humour, whilst it's also a gore hounds dream, and sure enough there are metaphors there if you are so inclined to look for them, and if you like playing spot the homage (or lift?), then fill your boots because they are all in here too. Ultimately if you are looking for a deep historical epic then you need to look elsewhere, but if you want a bold as brass action piece then get in the queue and enjoy the ride. 9/10
on 1 December 2010
This film is amazingly captivating and emotional, and really does a great job of showing how the actions of the Mayan civilisation has direct and unsavoury consequences for other less civilised tribes.
The setting for this film is idyllic sprawling rainforest, and the actors are played by Mexicans and Native Americans speaking in the Yucatec Maya language accompanied by subtitles.
Rudy Youngblood is fantastic in the lead role of the tribesman, Jaguar Paw, who is captured, along with all of the men of his tribe to be taken to the Mayan city as a blood sacrifice to the Gods.
This film does not stop from the word go, and does not disappoint either. If you can forgive some of the far-fetched parts of the action, and can stomach the often brutal violence, this makes for a fast-paced spectacle of courage and stamina that is wholly engaging right till the end credits.
on 15 January 2015
Unless you are briefed by someone who has seen this movie, nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for what you are about to see. This is like nothing you have ever experienced before. For what it does to your senses and emotions, be prepared for a 2 hour riveting, exciting, horrifying, gory, cliff-hanging, roller coaster ride which will leave you totally drained - but it is worth every minute that you gave up to watch it. Absolutely amazing, but I am not going to spoil it for you by dissecting it now. See the movie, you won't regret it!
Within the rain forests of South America 'Jaguar Paw' lives a peaceful and simple life with his wife, son, and
tribe around him.
They hunt the jungle to live as their ancestors had done before them.
During a hunt the village hunters meet up with the remains of a tribe seemingly fleeing their homeland seeking
a new beginning.
The sight of their fear troubles 'Jaguar Paw' he knows there is something terribly wrong, his concerns are soon
confirmed as the village is attacked by a tribe from afar, many are killed and many are captured, 'Jaguar Paw'
manages to hide his wife and son in a pit close to his village.
'Jaguar Paw' now captured along with the many now faces a long and treacherous journey, he hopes he is able
to return very soon to save his heavily pregnant wife and son from certain death.
The prisoners have been captured by 'The Mayan' a mystical culture with many diverse beliefs and superstitions,
who's crops are failing, the captured villagers will be sold as slaves the remainder sacrificed to appease their
The captives have never seen a city made from rock before its quite an experience, though the experience won't
last for long for many.
Meanwhile 'Jaguar Paw's' wife and child have no food and little water, he will have to survive the sacrifice line up,
escape from a deadly 'Mayan' trial, and outrun and take down pursuers, the odds of either he or indeed his family
surviving are slim.
An exciting and sprawling epic that is often intensely graphic and brilliantly portrayed, the story depicting in part
a version of a great civilisations decline and desperate effort to avoid what is to come by offering and endless
stream of victims for sacrifice to please their Gods.
A Masterpiece directed by 'Mel Gibson'
Superb Picture and Sound Quality.........it's a film that if never seen is worth a viewing, or indeed a revisit if you have.
Special Features -
* BACKSTAGE - Feature commentary by writer/ director/ producer - 'Mel Gibson' and writer/ and co-producer 'Farhad
Safinia' - Becoming Mayan - Making Apocalypto
* Deleted Scenes - Can be viewed with optional commentary by writer/ director/ producer and writer/ and co-producer
* Movie Showcase - Instant access to select Movie scenes that Showcase The ultimate High Definition picture and sound.
Mad Mel's Apocalypto turns out not to be quite the splatter movie it was painted by feint-hearted critics still reeling from all the welts in The Passion. Instead it's The Naked Prey revisited with slight hints of Kings of the Sun and even Rapa Nui, though rather than telling his story from the perspective of the Mayans he chooses to play down the spectacle and see it through the eyes of their intended sacrificial victims. The story is surprisingly slight - peaceful tribe get captured as human sacrifices for Mayan priests to appease their gods, only for one to make a run for freedom and the trapped wife and child he left behind - but he manages to instil it with more substance than you might expect without hitting you over the head with it. There's an ecological message about impending disaster, but unlike any of those touchy-feely New Age types, there's no imaginary native wisdom on display here: the Mayan civilisation may be an ancient one, but here it's every bit as stupid as its modern-day equivalents, blindly destroying itself and their environment, bringing plague and devastation as they destroy their depleting natural resources, distracting the people with a non-stop conveyer belt of bloody sacrifices. These are savage times, and the film's spectacular centrepiece in the Mayan city doesn't stint on the gore. Yet at the same time the characters are recognisable - they tell dirty stories, play practical jokes and B.S. each other as they get on with their lives. Even the raiding party are little different from a group of modern-day buddies on a fishing trip.
With Gibson beginning his film with the same Will Durant quote that ended The Fall of the Roman Empire - `a great civilisation is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within' - it's clear that he's informed by Sixties epics as more than he is by Herzog's nutters in the jungle. Indeed, while he may eschew the Scope format he even shoots the Mayan city in the classic Anthony Mann style, discarding the big establishing shot but choosing instead to gradually reveal it as the characters are drawn into it, saving the big money shots for the end of the sequence. As a result, it's a much more convincing and layered depiction of its world and its many social levels than you'd expect for something other directors might have thrown away as a simple background walk-through.
Yet after the spectacle, the film scales itself down again as it goes back to basics, and while it's not exactly an anti-climax, it's this section that keeps the film from being more than just pretty good. The big chase lacks the imagination and power of The Naked Prey (which also has the advantage of a much tighter running time), keeping the film at the level of just another survival-of-the-smartest action adventure. It's not bad, but it doesn't hold many surprises, going through many of the traditional means of disposing of your enemies that the movies have been offering since Leslie Banks stalked The Most Dangerous Game back in 1932, though Gibson does throw in a great "There goes the neighbourhood" punchline. He's also blessed with a couple of striking villains in the Wes Studi-like form of Raoul Trujillo as the chief manhunter Zero Wolf and Gerardo Taracena as the cocky sadist of the team, Middle Eye.
While it's certainly the best-looking digitally shot feature to date, there are still some problems - with digital's persistent problems with catching high-speed motion, it's not the best idea to shoot a chase movie in digital even if you do have a cinematographer as good as Dean Semler, and some shots are distractingly subpar even on a small screen.
It's interesting but not entirely surprising that the not exactly overloaded with extras DVD (just a commentary, half-hour making of and 35-second deleted scene) doesn't include the film's trailer, since looking at it after seeing the film it's clearly not only made up of footage that doesn't even appear in the film - mainly makeup, wardrobe and camera test footage - but it even seems to include a different leading man and a very different look for its native characters and even the Mayan city.
on 20 February 2010
The name given to Jaguar Eye by one of his tormentors, "Almost", sums up the experience for me. I'm no expert on the Mayan civilisation but would be willing to bet there were historical inaccuracies in the film, even without being told! That said, feature films are not history lessons and it is unrealistic to expect total fidelity to known facts in the development of a movie.
The story has a hypnotic quality and it is very easy to root for the hero. The suspension in reality that results in the superhuman feats of both hunters and hunted is well-maintained, and the backdrop is suitably stunning.
Subtitling can be off-putting but in this case, resistance is quickly overcome by the momentum of the story, and the strength of the characters. The quality of acting, direction, photography and sound is outstanding throughout.
Other film anoraks may like to note the similarity in theme to Gibson's earlier project, "Braveheart", where ingenuity takes on brute force and sort of half wins.
I've held off giving five stars simply because this is quite a harrowing film, and probably not one I would want to watch over and over. There is cruelty a-plenty, which generally speaking is not often to my taste, but it is definitely worth seeing the film at least once.
on 10 April 2011
Mel Gibson chose Rudy Youngblood to play Jaguar Paw because he could run like a deer, and this kind of energy sets the standard for the film. Not only is there non stop action, taking place in a Rain Forest setting with hunting Tapir, war between tribes, and a simulated 175 foot leap over what appears to be Iguasau Falls, but the film is also a great artistic feat. 700 extras where made up and costumed by 200 artists in authentic Mayan style designed by Mayes Rebeo, each day, representing precious Jade inlays, trbal scarification, and tatoos. A Mayan city was built with Tom Sanders designs, including Pyramid Temples, at Veracruz, and Anna Roth chose Catemaco in Mexico for the village location of six months.
Within the brutal and yet sophisticated Mayan culture, were already the elements on its own destruction; deforestation, pollution of agricltural land, superstition, and slavery. Simon Atherton invented and researched the weapons, which feature extensively. The Human sacrifice of captives as a way of thanking and appeasing their Gods was in practise when Christopher Columbus on his fourth expedition with four ships to Central and South America encountered the Mayans. This meeting of 1502 is the first recorded encounter by Europeans, and this scene as Jaguar Paw runs exhausted onto a beach, after killing Mayan commander, Zero Wolf (Raul Trujillo) with a Tapir trap, still chased by two of his sons, was the first one shot. The shock of this strange encounter allows young finely tuned Jaguar Paw to escape and rescue his infant son and wife (Itandehui Gutierrez), who has just given birth in a flooded cave. The two warriors switch their attention to the strange men rowing ashore.
The action is complemeted by heart racing drum beats and Asian Tantra-like intonations for a realistic and enthralling 132 minutes. The music is composed by James Horner, with vocals by Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, and Terry Edwards. Special features include interviews, and a very entertaining and off beat commentary by Writers/Directors/Producers Mel Gibson and Farhad Safina. This is a unique film operating on many levels, and one cerainly not to be missed.
on 20 October 2010
Apocalypto: This film signed Mel Gibson is one of the best films on Indigenous People made by non-Indigenous people, that I have seen. No romanticising, the picture of the innocent fairytale-like group of idealised people is being shattered. The opening sequence is also revealing in the sense that Indigenous people are basically just like all other people, not perfect, but wanting to do better. The bloody sequences are strong but not speculative. Indigenous people can be as obsessively bad as any other, and also as good and wildly responsible as the `hero'. It is a relief to see an Indigenous film that does not include the traditional clash between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Yes, it is touched upon in the end, yet elegantly avoided: Excellent ending! (Another film in this category is «Pavlu's bryllup» by Knud Rasmuussen, an old black and white movie on an Inuit wedding conflict)
My criticism would be that human sacrifice couldn't be proven has taken place among the Maya. Maybe among the Aztec, although it is depicted, it is speculation whether or not it took place, and to what extent. At least not all experts agree on it.