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Gibson continues to push the envelope
A Scene from Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto".
OPENING WEEKEND: $15,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $45,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

March 6th, 2006: When his idyllic existence is brutally disrupted by a violent invading force, a man (Mauricio Amuy Tenorio) is taken on a perilous journey to a world ruled by fear and oppression where a harrowing end awaits him. Through a twist of fate and spurred by the power of his love for his woman and his family he will make a desperate break to return home and to ultimately save his way of life. Apocalypto is a heart stopping mythic action-adventure set against the turbulent end times of the once great Mayan civilization and an allegory for the world we live in today.

What to Expect: For all his unconventional values and convictions, Mel Gibson is perhaps one of the most negatively scrutinized celebrities in Hollywood, other than Tom Cruise, who has been everyone’s favorite punching bag of late. For an example of his odd behavior, you can check out the Apocalypto trailer where at approximately 1:45, a wide-eyed Gibson, sporting an enormous beard and smoking what looks to be a joint, appears for a single frame. Frequently, however, it takes a person full of eccentricities and inimitable visions to have a great artist capable of creating unforgettable movies. And as Gibson’s public persona becomes more unusual and abstract, he also seems to be growing as a filmmaker and is well on his way to becoming a better director than he is an actor. His directorial debut was the pleasant, but relatively tame and conventional The Man Without a Face. He followed this up two years later with the epic Braveheart, which went on to win five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for Gibson. It would be nine years before Gibson poured his heart and soul into another project as a director, but he made an unforgettable impact when he finally did. I’m speaking of course about The Passion of the Christ, which grossed just over $600 million worldwide and $370 million domestically, making it the highest grossing R-rated film of all time in the United States by nearly $100 million. Personally, I found Braveheart to be the better film, but The Passion of the Christ was a more daring and experimental artistic statement on Gibson’s part. It was a commendable achievement and went on to become a phenomenon with the public to say the least. Gibson, who largely funded the project himself, donated an immense portion of the profits to the church, while retaining the rest to finance his next audacious historical epic, Apocalypto.

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For his story, Gibson may have chosen the most obscure and fascinating topic yet. The once great Mayan civilization, which thrived in Central America for over 2000 years, is seldom talked about in mainstream culture. The ancient society was quite advanced in their political structures, had thoroughly developed agricultural and mathematical systems, and possessed unsurpassed astronomical knowledge (some of which is still being studied today), which helped them observe and outline an astoundingly accurate 365-day calendar. They were deeply devoted to their belief system, a lot of which ties into modern religion, and were highly prone to making human sacrifices. In all likelihood, they may be best known for their extraordinary architecture, most of which has practically been swallowed by the Mexican jungle after abandonment. Even more intriguing is their relatively sudden and rapid collapse in the early 1400s following many years of tremendous prosperity and dominance. The downfall of this great civilization has been studied for years and has been attributed to such factors as constant warfare, depletion of croplands, and unexpected droughts, but the exact reasons are still being deliberated.

I applaud Gibson for choosing a subject that most filmmakers would stay away from although it may prove to be a highly unpopular choice with the audience. He claims that he is not concerned with public opinion and is instead far more interested with shaking things up. Like with The Passion of the Christ, which was strictly in the Latin and Aramaic languages with subtitles, Gibson has opted to utilize only the native Mayan tongue in the script. In addition, his cast will consist primarily of unknown locals, which should be another major deterrent to the theater going public. Reportedly, Gibson has consulted the Popol Vuh (the Mayan bible) when studying Mayan mythology and culture. As such, the film should be well researched and will apparently feature unprecedented accuracy in costume and set design as well as careful attention to the precision of the Mayan dialect.

The film’s main area of focus will be the mysterious deterioration of this formerly great civilization prior to the eventual Hispanic invasion. Since the exact reasons are debatable, it leaves Gibson lots of room for personal speculation. It has been widely publicized that the film will serve as Gibson’s political statement about America’s own dissolution. I’m not sure whether that will be clear from the movie itself without the media’s aid in spreading such rumors, but I’m almost certain that the film will serve as an allegory and warning for all of world’s influential powers. Needless to say, the premise is much riskier than The Passion of the Christ and while such high ambitions can lead to unparalleled success, they can also lead to embarrassment due to a lack of control and restraint.

In Conclusion: Since Gibson has been secretive about the production and the elements appear to be so conceptual, Apocalypto becomes a challenging puzzle. It’s difficult to tell how much support Gibson will get from his Christian fan base or from the more liberal viewers when he has chosen such an enigmatic context for his vision. I think he is setting himself up for a commercial flop, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the film will be awful. If Gibson can keep his ego in check, he may have a masterpiece on his hands. Otherwise, Apocalypto could quickly collapse under excessively contrived and preachy themes. I don’t believe that Gibson is quite there yet and I have high expectations for this intriguing film, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t quite live up to the hype and turns out to be a simpler movie than it appears. At the very least, it will undoubtedly be another brutal and violent epic from the filmmaker.

Similar Titles: The Passion of the Christ, Kingdom of Heaven
December 8th, 2006 (wide)
May 22nd, 2007 (DVD)

Touchstone Pictures

Mel Gibson

Rudy Youngblood, Mayra Sérbulo, Dalia Hernandez, Gerardo Taracena, Raoul Trujillo

Total: 233 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Drama

Click here to view site

Rated R for sequences of graphic violence and distrubing images






Apocalypto at AskMen.com

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