Magazine article Newsweek

Mel's Jungle Boogie; the Embattled Director Returns with His Brutal and Bloody Chase Movie 'Apocalypto.' Run for Your Life

Magazine article Newsweek

Mel's Jungle Boogie; the Embattled Director Returns with His Brutal and Bloody Chase Movie 'Apocalypto.' Run for Your Life

Article excerpt

Byline: David Ansen

Let no one deny that mel Gibson is a true auteur, an artist whose films are deeply personal, intransigently independent of movie-industry fashion and possessed of a singular vision. Even if his name weren't on the title, anyone familiar with his oeuvre would be able to recognize "Mel Gibson's Apocalypto" as the work of the creator of "The Passion of the Christ," though here he foregoes Aramaic for the Yucatec language spoken by the descendants of the Mayans.

Once again he returns to his favorite theme: nearly naked men being tortured. Repeatedly. Imaginatively. At great length. "Apocalypto," however, begins on a light note: the trapping, and graphic impalement, of a tapir on a fence of spikes. Next comes a jocular moment in which the hunters--a tribe of peaceful forest dwellers in Mesoamerica circa 1517--trick one of their members into eating the dead animal's severed testicles. It isn't long before comedy is cast aside and true horror descends: the tribe, which lives in harmony with nature, is invaded by marauding, torch-bearing tattooed Mayans, who set huts on fire, club and knife many of the women and children to death, and imprison the men, including the film's wounded and bloodied young hero, Jaguar Paw (Richard Youngblood). Along with his fellow tribesmen, Jaguar Paw is shackled to a pole and forced to endure a long, sadistic march to the Mayans' city, where an even crueler fate awaits them.

"Apocalypto" begins with an intriguing quote from Will Durant: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." This might lead you to expect an exploration of the erosion and extinction of the mighty Mayan empire. But this is not to be. The only aspects of the Mayans' culture that fire Gibson's imagination are the blood sacrifices held atop their imposing stone pyramids. …

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