Apocalypto [Open Spoilers]

First, apologies if there is already a thread - I looked, but the threads seemed to be of the “anticipation” variety. This is one for those who have seen the movie.

Saw Mad Mel’s “Apocalypto” the other night. I wanted to like the movie, because it looked great, but in plot it was a big disappointment.

Below are lots and lots of spoilers …

First, it looks and sounds great. Kudos to the casting, the costume designers, the set decorators etc.

Second, I kind of liked how they portrayed the theoretical causes of the downfall of the Maya (disease, deforestation, agricultural failure, tree-burning to make lime, warfare).

Third, the plot is basic enough - happy village attacked by nasties from post-classic Mayan city in decay, for slavery and sacrifice; stalwart hero must escape and win back to his wife and children. Barring the somewhat-anachronism of having a classic-appearing city inhabited at the time of contact with the Spanish, I can live with this (heck, it may even be historical - I thought the classic cities were all abandoned and those post-classic cities still inhabited were somewhat different, but I could be wrong).

But the absurd cliffhangers, coincidences and impossibilities make it difficult to suspend disbelief (our hero is rescued by the appearance of Spanish ships at the very moment when he’s about to be killed;he returns to save his wife and kiddies in the nick of time from drowning, etc.); this difficulty is increased by the apparent superhuman endurance of our hero - he’s shot through the side with a javalin, but still manages to (a) outrun a jaguar; (b) run all the way back to his ex-village while being chased by a whole posse of unwounded baddies; he survives being further shot with an arrow with seemingly few ill effects.

Even so, I could live with that. But what I found really made it difficult to suspend disbelief was the notion that a wide-ranging group of hunter-gatherers who allegedly know every inch of their jungly domain could be completely unaware, not even having heard rumours before, of the existance of a “classic” Maya city of (apparently) several thousand inhabitants within the distance that a wounded man could run without food or sleep.

Jesus you’re hard to please. You liked (or “could live with”) everything about it, but this is the deal-breaker that makes it a “dissapointment”?

Who says they didn’t know about it? They never acted suprised that it existed, just surprised by actually being there. I know people who live in towns next to big cities who’ve never been to the big city, and back then, when tribes were close-knit and they had everything they needed at hand, there would be no reason to go. They could well have known about it but have not ever been there.

This was my favorite movie of the year for several reasons, chief among them being the lead character and his wife and child. I fell in love with them and really cared what happened to them.

And shame on you for spoiling the movie in your OP.

Ah, never mind, sorry. You did say “Open spoilers” and I just checked and you can’t see the spoilers with a mouseover.

Um, no, when they were being dragged off to the city our hero met up with the fellow who was fleeing previously and whom he had dreamed about prophetically (now also a prisoner) and asked him what this place was that they were being taken to; he gets told that it is a “place made of stones” or some such, “where the earth bleeds”. It is pretty clear that our hero has no idea what the place is or that it existed.

I can accept that a tribesman would never have personally set foot in a city; I find it hard to accept he would not know of its existance, or be completely ignorant of what it was, when he (a least as far as we the audience knows) live close enough to run to the place. While holed by a javalin, no less.

I guess my disappointment was a cumulative result of a lot of plot improbables (this one being in the nature of the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back) which for me made it difficult to accept the plot. I agree that the hero, his wife and kiddies were engaging characters, and as I said, the movie looked and sounded great - I also liked the use of (what I presume to be) Mayan.

I wasn’t fussed by the main criticism I’ve heard - that it was excessively bloody. I guess I’m inured to that, and in context of the plot, the violence made sense.

The movie seemed to me a great idea sold short.

We discussed Apocalypto at some length in this thread.

Just an FYI

Well obviously, ONE of them knew about the city. Maybe Jaguar Paw should have been aware, but it never even crossed my mind that it was a problem.

The violence was absolutely necessary. Just as the violence in, say, Saving Private Ryan was necessary. I’m not comaring the movies in any other way, it’s just that they would be completely different movies without the violence.

To me it was a great idea perfectly realized.

Ah yes, I saw that thread, but thought it was more of an “anticipation” thread; but I see on actually reading it that there are those who saw it as well.

It seemed to me more a fault of the film-maker.

The way I see it is this: on the journey outwards to the city as prisoners, or basically the first half of the movie, the impression is given that the city was very far away - thus it would make sense that these jungle dwellers had no heard of it/had only legends about it, or encountered raiders and the like before (and ignore danger signs/get taken completely by surprise by raiders).

On the run home, this distance is contracted for plot purposes. It simply makes no sense that a guy, holed by a javalin and without food or sleep, could run any great distance while being closely pursued.

It is as if (to exaggerate for effect) one was watching LoTR, and after watching for half the movie as the Hobbits make their way to Moridor through countless miles and perils, Frodo realizes that he forgot his pipe at home - and jogs home to get it. :wink:

I’ll not disagree. I don’t accept this common criticism as valid.

Disagree. I think the idea and actors were great and the sets wonderful; the thing looked and sounded amazing. Hence my disappointment at the action-movie plot cliches and improbabilities.

I saw it as two movies. I loved the first movie where it gave a shocking look into the Mayan culture. The raid, the lands traveled, and, of course, the city and pyramid. Amazingon the big screen.

The second movie: big car chase scene. It just seemed to go on and on forever. I remember thinking if it was really worth the pursuer’s time and effort for this one guy.

bMalthus**: I’m with you pretty much 100%. I saw it last week and was kinda disapointed, although probably because I had unrealistic expectations. The Spanish ships at the end was such a big let down, and I kept asking myself how Jaguar Paw’s tribe could be so oblivious to the dangers of living so close to that Mayan city wrt being captured and used for ritual sacrifice. They must’ve been doing that for decades, if not centuries. And Mel went out of his way to have JP’s tribe explicitly state that they’d been in that part of the forest for generations.

One other thing, kind of minor but still eye rolling… how the hell can you have a total eclipse of the sun during the day and then a full moon that night? Doesn’t a total eclipse have to happen right at or near a “new moon” (ie, the moon is high during daytime, not at night)?

I did enjoy the scenes in the Maya village, but the chase scenes didn’t do too much for me. (The Naked Prey was better.) And the plot cliche about one of the captors having it in for JP was, well, just too cliched for my tastes.

I’m tempted to see it, just so I can see where Mel managed to fit in the part where the vaudeville Jews sail in, all Yiddish accents and hook noses, singing “Cohen Owes Me Ninety-Seven Dollars,” and put the Mayans out of business by selling them pants that ride up in the crotch.

“Oy, dot poor man, he cen’t valk!”
“Yes–but dun’t his pents look vonderful, Abie?”

I don’t agree that the trip to the city took an especially long time over a vast distance. The captors had dozens of prisoners and had to go very slow. Maybe Jaguar Paw should have known about the city and its dangers (as at least one other tribesman did), but I give a lot of movies I love leeway on minor script problems. Even the best movies have wtf moments.

Also maybe the slave traders had kept to a different direction from the city and were only now getting to the area of the forest where Jaguar Paw’s tribe lived, previouslly hunting for slaves, say, east, north and west, while Jaguar Paw’s tribe was south.

Revenge has driven movies since they first started making movies. Jaguar Paw killed the man’s son. It was self-defense, but the kid’s Pa wasn’t taking that into consideration. Everyone else probably would have given up chasing Jaguar Paw when they got to the waterfall if Angry Dad hadn’t been with them. Indeed, he even killed one of them for suggesting that they take the long way around.

I guess it wasn’t “perfectly realizd” for me. I did have two minor problems. I loved the use of Mayan (and it was Mayan) but the subtitles were sometimes very modern (using the word “fucked”), also, the plot point of how Jaguar Paw got away, the game of having them run toward the cornfield, seemed strange. The Mayans have all these perfectly healthy men, so why would they kill them for sport? A few maybe, but all of them? Seems like they could have used more slaves in the “concrete factory” or penned them up for use in the next sacrifice.

But, I loved Jaguar Paw and his family too much to let anything make me think less of the movie. They’re now among my favorite characters in movies. Plus the fact that I got to see things I’ve never ever seen before in a movie. How awesome and rare it is to be shown things completely new!

Sigh, I’m full of typos today, and very inarticulate. “things” this, “things” that. Ugh.

Also, though this is probably another damnation of Jaguar Paw not knowing about the city, the captors had to take a clear-cut route that would accomodate all the captives, while Jaguar Paw could run through the jungle in a more direct route.

Some of the crew on those Spanish ships were crypto-Jews. :stuck_out_tongue:

I saw it about 10 days ago. While I loved it visually, I was somewhat disappointed in that I felt that a great opportunity to explore some important issues was squandered in making what was mostly just an action movie.

For me, the best part of the movie was the visualization of the Maya city. I’ve always wanted to see something like this in a movie, and I thought Gibson got it pretty much right. The tropical forest scenes were also pretty good.

Given that Gibson chose to open the movie with Will Durant’s quote ''A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within," however, I would have liked to have seen a deeper examination of this idea. There were fleeting images of disease and ravaged crops, but the reasons for these weren’t even touched on.

In any case, the great New World civilizations as a group don’t really provide good examples for Duran’ts thesis. Certainly the Classic Maya civilization could have been said to have “destroyed itself” through over-exploitation of resources and internecine warfare, but this was hardly true of the Aztec and Inca Empires. Both of the latter were destroyed as much or more by diseases brought in by the Spanish as by conquest, and probably would have lasted far longer in the absence of Europeans. Neither could have been said to have destroyed themselves from within. Perhaps Gibson wanted to show human sacrifice as part of the corruption of Mayan society, but the Aztecs practiced this even more ferociously. In any case once the Spanish arrived, everybody was pretty much screwed, whether they were corrupt Maya city dwellers or noble savages like Jaguar Paw’s group. Whatever message Gibson might have been trying to convey by using Durant’s quote was totally confused by the movie.

Beyond this major flaw there were some annoying implausibilites, incongruities, and inaccuracies that interfered with my enjoyment of the movie.

  • As other have mentioned, the fact that Jaguar Paw was able to outrun a bunch of warriors with a spear wound through the gut was just not credible. Give him a flesh wound in the upper body, and maybe I could buy it, but a gut wound - no way.

  • Jaguar Paw’s tribe were depicted as hunter-gatherers living in the rainforest. As far as I know, pretty much all of the groups living in Mesoamerica at this time should have been small-scale agriculturalists. In any case, it would have been implausible for a major Mayan city to send a raiding party into the forest to attack a small group of hunter-gatherers instead of attacking agricultural villages closer by, which would have had more people.

  • The method used to kill the tapir in the hunt at the beginning was absurd. The trap obviously took a huge amount of work to construct, but there was really no way to be sure that the tapir would run past it in exactly the right way to be killed by it. Better to use pitfall or nets, and drive the tapir into it, or else spears. This device was obviously used in the movie in order to have a dramatic way to kill the leader of the pursuers (which was just as implausible as it was for the tapir).

  • A mysterious disease was shown killing villagers before the arrival of the Spanish in that area. While it is true that European diseases spread in some areas in advance of the arrival of Europeans themselves (spreading from areas which the Europeans had arrived previously), the movie seemed to imply that these diseases were a result of the corruption of Maya culture itself rather than from outside.

  • As others have mentioned, the presence of what seemed to be a Classic Maya city at the time of the Spanish arrival was incongruous.

  • The astronomical problems with the eclipse have already been mentioned; it was also depicted as taking place much too quickly.

I also had some very minor geeky nitpicks (totally unimportant but fun to notice). For example, the costumes used pheasant and guinea-fowl feathers (species that would not have been present before the Conquest) - they should have at least been dyed so they looked more like quetzal or macaw feathers. Also, a Cattle Egret was shown; this species didn’t appear in Central America until the 1950s. The tapir seemed to me to be squealing an awful lot like a pig. A jaguar would not have had its den with its kitten in a tree (though I have to give Gibson props for using what looked to me to be a real black jaguar, rather than a black panther/leopard). But these were all things that could easily be overlooked.

I took the whole thing as an allegory for modern America. The Mayans were tearing down forests to make paint, hoodwinking the masses by pretending to control the sun, attacking nearby cultures for no apparent reason, and yet they seemed unable to recognize that most their problems were of their own creation.

Not saying that’s necessarily what Gibson was intending, but that was how it struck me.

Completely agree.

I will unashamedly hijack this thread to see if anyone can comment on a question I had about Apocalypto and started another thread about last month. Quoting my OP from that thread: