December 12, 2006

Gibson's New Epic

We got out to a Saturday matinee to see "Apocalypto" this past weekend, and came away dazzled by the filmmaking skills of Mel Gibson. A phrase I read elsewhere about the film, but readily agree with, is that it was "visually stunning" throughout. And while it is definitely not for the weak of stomach, I didn't think the violence was gratuitous. Gibson portrayed the Mayan tribes as primitive and savage, including violent tribal conflict, slavery and ceremonial human sacrifice. I guess there's no good way to clean that stuff up. The action sequences are edge-of-your-seat exciting, and the crowd scenes are worthy of the director of "Braveheart." The Yucatec Maya dialect in which all of the dialogue is spoken doesn't slow the pace at all.

I haven’t heard anyone else point this out, but I noticed what I presume to be Gibson’s homage to “Midnight Cowboy” in one scene. The captured tribesmen are being marched through the jungle by their captors, bound by the hands and necks to bamboo poles in a line. At one point a huge tree crashes down right across the path of the procession, and they scramble to avoid being crushed by its fall. The leader of the capturing tribe screams out to no one in particular, in dialect of course, "I’m walkin’ here”….which of course is Ratso Rizzo’s (Dustin Hoffman) famous line from "Midnight Cowboy" as he crosses a street in New York City and is nearly run down by a car lurching into the crosswalk. Maybe a coincidence, but I don't think so.

It's action-adventure at its best. I'll leave the heavy metaphors about modern civilization to the real critics, and just say that I found myself thinking that based on the behavior of the humans, the story might just as easily have been set in the 20th century as in the 15th.

UPDATE 12/13: Googling "Apocalypto" and "Midnight Cowboy" produced this review which mentions the same line. This one too. Not a scoop.

Posted by dan at December 12, 2006 7:51 PM