Dear Mel Gibson,
Just last night, I watched your film Apocalypto. What the fuck was that? Stop. Please. Just stop. You have no idea what you are doing – or worse, I fear that you do.
Sure, I enjoyed the hell out of Braveheart; but really, would a minor feudal lord really espouse Enlightenment philosphies of freedom? I still reel with laughter at your Patriot hero insisting “no, they aren’t slaves! I pay them a wage!” What little grasp of history that you have becomes weaker and weaker with every film, replacing any efforts at telling a historically-based story with so much violence that the movie is more of an assault than entertainment. After this last, I simply want to ask “what is the point?”
Because, really, what was the point of Apocalypto?
It wasn’t good storytelling because you violated logic in about ten different ways. A villager who lives within a day’s walk of a city has never heard of it or the nefarious deeds of its citizens? A man wounded through at least two vital organs can walk away at the end, without even the slightest attention to his wounds? How did the guy know the way back to his village? The baby born in the flood? The flood in the cave or hole or whatever it was? The cave or hole or whatever it was? What was the motivation of the evil bastard who taunted our hero? What was the motivation for any of the bad guys? These are basic plot and character points.
I might say that it was a good action and adventure movie, but that whole running through the forest has been done – or have you not seen The Last of the Mohicans?
While the costumes and sets were amazing, they seemed to dress up what was otherwise a snuff film. Really, did you have to linger just a few seconds too long over every gore drenched corpse? Did you have to let every act of violence go on for just slightly longer than was necessary? Did you have to find just the exact camera angle to show the full violent impact of every blow? A spear through the head as show from the exit wound of the mouth. The spurts of blood (which, incidentally, I first thought were some anomoly on my DVD) from a bashed in brain. The brain itself, protruding from the skull. The (seemingly surgically removed) heart ripped from a living body. The bouncing and impaled heads and bodies. See how I’m going on: I’m echoing you, but with less red dye, and more restraint. It was pornographic.
Then, of course, your history was hideous, and I know squat about the Mayans. Were they not astronomers? Could they not have predicted the eclipse? If they were dying of smallpox, would they not have had some contact with the Europeans? Why would they dump dead bodies in the middle of their cornfields? What the hell was going on there? What were you trying to say?
You see, that’s what I fear: that I in fact know what you were trying to say. You spend – what was it? 10 hours (it felt like ten) – you spend the whole movie showing how vicious and evil the Mayans were to one another, whether it be the young men teasing their infertile comrade at the beginning or the whole slave expedition, sacrifice and chase that occupied the rest of the movie. All of your characters were “noble savage” and “brutal savage” stereotypes serving no real function except in the interchange of violent action: bodies to be mutilated by one another.
Then, in the final scene, the Europeans arrive, brandishing a cross, with no sign of guns nor evidence that they were the source of the smallpox seen earlier in the film. They come as rescuers, their very presence saving the hero from certain slaughter. Your message seems to be that the Europeans were Saviors, and that the Mayan civilization deserved to be eradicated. Like your characters, this message, this interpretattion of history is outdated and simplistic.
Bad storytelling, bad history, and not at all entertaining: what was the point? Really, what was the point? Just leave history alone. I beg you.
A former fan (because damn, you were smokin’ hot in Gallipoli and Year of Living Dangerously)