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Thread for discussing the message of the movie, so you need to know what happens before you get into this.




Just saw this in a 4am showing.


I loved the opening 30 seconds. Honest, that was enough to make me keep the tv on instead of going to bed.


Anyways, halfway through the movie I went online to imdb to clear up some things I was curious about, like were they talking a real language etc.


I discovered that the message boards are quite full of controversy. Lots of people see political statements in the movie, racism, religious sermonizing...


I'm not sure I agree too much.


I just saw a good chase movie with elements of Lord of the Flies and a similar message. But more on that later.



First, the racism. THis movie came out a few months after Gibson got into his famous sugar tits, jews are evil incident. ANd it portrays the Mayans doing some pretty barbaric things: slavery, rape, human sacrifice, murder for sport. Some say this is Racism. Fuck no. It's the story of a corrupt empire imploding. Could have been any empire. I mean, when the English in Braveheart started raping brides and executing leaders and pillaging the land, was that showing the white race in a bad light?


There is some worth to exploring the idea that the movie exaggerated the human sacrifice aspect of things. But Other's have responded that the movie is accurate in its portrayal of the practices of the latter days of the Mayan empire. I have not the knowledge at the moment to say anything more.


Some saw the message as relating to Iraq. The ones doing the kidnapping and beheading were al-Qaeda and the message was that they must be opposed and resisted with every fibre of our being. That's not a controversial message except when you get into what meaures are helpful and hurtful and some want to claim that this film is saying we should support the war in Iraq as part of opposing al-Qaeda.


I'm not even going to start on the misconstruction of the analogies here. I just want to say that I don't see any political statement in the move relevant specifically to our age, except MAYBE some light environmentalism/ anti-industrialism. The Two Towers had a stronger element of that than this movie, however.


and then there's the religious symbolism. I don't remember it myself, but someone said that the creepy prophet girl says they need a 'redeemer' It's not clear if the redeemer in question is Jaguar Paw. However, at the end of the movie, ship with a cross on its sails shows up while Jaguar Paw kneels on the sand. Some people telegraphing their pre judgment of the work, said that Mel Gibson was trying to say that the Mayans are shown as examples of what happens to a civilization without Christianity.


I don't see it.




What I DO see is lots of Lord of the Flies. THere's the story that the one armed sage tells in the beginning where the Owl says that he is afraid because man would never gain happiness even with the gifts of all the animals because he has a hole inside that drives him like a hunger. (I suspect this was a story made up for the movie, not an actual traditional Mayan tale. It doesn't have a folk tale structure. IN fact it has almost no narrative structure at all.)


Still, the idea that Man has a hole that will drive him to evil echoes the theme of Lord of the Flies. Then there's the whole aspect of sacrifice to please the gods in Apocalypto which parallels ths boys in Lord of the Flies sacrificing to appease the Beast.


Finally we get to the ending. Jaguar Paw runs on to the beach, exhausted and pursued. He collapses only to find out that civilization has arrived on ships and he is saved.


In Lord of the Flies, Ralph does the same thing, only instead of COnquistadores, there's a Destroyer sitting on the horizon.


I think this is a good point to re-examine the idea that Gibson intended Christianity to redeem the godless Mayans.


The edition of Lord of the Flies I first read was for school kids and had lengthy notes in the back. Even the elementary analysis they offered (by my ENglish Major standards) makes it clear that the destroyer represents civilization in an ironic way. Because the grown ups stop the petty squabbling of the boys on the island when they show up, but the reason the grown ups are there is because THEY are fighting among themselves.


So, I cannot see the arrival of the Spaniards as anything intended to be positive either, since that last scene seems very deliberately modeled on Lord of the Flies.




About the movie itself:


A decent chase movie with two very good villians. Good villians make a movie for me. Braveheart succeeded in large part I think because of the (historically inaccurate) portrayal of the personalities of the English Royalty.


The first of the villains in Apocalypto is the one with the out and out mean streak, who has marvelous facial language for conveying his contempt and cruelty.


Then there's the boss of the kidnap squad who is carefully shown to be a protective father, a man concerned with business, rather than joy in evil, a skilled warrior and when he loses his son and goes all Darth Vader in his pursuit of Jaguar Paw, we beleive it and we take him seriously as a threat.


You cannot have a good chase movie without that sense of relentless threat.


Some other things that were good:


-The portrayal of village life in the beginning, with the tapir sperm joke etc. Sets us up to care what happens

-The emotion Jaguar Paw shows after his escape at the river and the speech he makes. In fact everything leading up to, during and right after that bit.

-creepy prophet girl didn't quite work for me, but she was memorable.

-The Mother-in-law at the slave auction sequence. Was surprisingly touching.


Things I didn't like:


It got boring between them getting captured and the sacrifice.

The escape to the cornfield sequence was kinda dumb.

Jaguar sequence was kinda dumb (and too drawn out)

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