Apocalypto

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Photo by D. Tempesta

I fully expect talking about Apocalypto to be difficult. The movie is just so powerful and somber that I want to be as reverent as possible. I will start out by saying that the movie is fantastic. It is certainly difficult to watch, but still good.

I have not done much personal research into Native American culture, so I am certainly not an authority on the authenticity of the movie. However, what I can say is that the movie as a whole certainly feels authentic. The entire thing could be one giant lie (doubtful considering it is from Mel Gibson) and it would not have impacted my viewing. I was wholly immersed and would have believed anything the movie gave me. Apocalypto was able to accomplish this because of Aristotle, or rather synergy. I’ve heard it both ways. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The individual elements of Apocalypto are neither original nor special. But they come together in such a way to create a movie that is both.

Perhaps my favorite aspect is the emotional storytelling. From the moment Jaguar Paw encounters the other tribe in his jungle while his tribe is hunting until the credits start to roll, we are invested. The interactions between Jaguar Paw and the other men of the tribe are just so jovial we can’t help but join in the laughter. We are then immediately thrust into the powerful scene where we see the bloody and defeated faces of the tribe whose village was ravaged. Shortly after, we see a pointed conversation between Jaguar Paw and his father in which Jaguar Paw is instructed to not be afraid. Yet the sense of foreboding has already been set. We know he is right to be uncomfortable. And the promise of that foreboding is met with the unforgiving ravaging of Jaguar Paw’s village. Which brings me to the next aspect…

The raw, unforgiving, and unrelenting content of the film. Nothing is held back, which I argue is one of the essential reasons this movie is successful. Apocalypto immerses us in this historic period; it would have been disingenuous to both the viewer and the subjects of the film to be hesitant or scared to include certain aspects. Apocalypto never does this. It faces its brutality head on. The very feature that makes this movie so hard to watch is the same that makes watching it so good.

The final sum is the acting. You could tell me that each character in this movie actually lived during the time the New World was being discovered and I would probably believe you. Each actor fully embraced their role and bought into who they were. This facet perfectly rounds out the complete immersion that Apocalypto already offers us.

My only complaint is directed at what this movie is trying to say. Movies with a quote at the beginning generally have a statement to make, except for maybe the LEGO Batman Movie. Hoooo. But the opening quote at the beginning of Apocalypto paired with the content of the film more than implied that the arrival of the eastern world redeemed an otherwise irredeemable culture. That hardly seems to be the case historically considering how much damage we did to the Native American culture. Furthermore, I see this to be a great disservice to the complex culture of the Native Americans. Either way, I found the movie great to watch, but the assertion that it made is unjust.

My name is Chuck, and these are my thoughts. Now I would like to know what you think. How did you feel the first time you watched this film? Do you think the movie did a good job with immersion? What did you think about the ending? Leave a comment down below, and we’ll talk. Enjoy the day!

Next week: American Made


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