Apocalypto review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
Apocalypto is a true marvel in filmmaking not because it’s good, ground-breaking, stellar, magnificent, or anything of the sorts; but rather because it’s a very unique experience and perhaps a one of its kind. Granted, there is no other live feature to compare it to, and this is precisely what makes Apocalypto a true wonder in filmmaking that will remain remembered long after director Mel Gibson will, figuratively speaking, pass the baton (to a younger generation of directors). Yes, believe it or not, Mel Gibson has actually directed this film.
Stripped down to its core, Apocalypto is an archetypal tale of the provisional hero who must embark on a quest after which he becomes reborn and saves the cosmos (i.e. brings order to a rather chaotic world). Strangely enough, Apocalypto is playing with this trope here and there, and postulates “the jungle” as the cosmos, and the “Mayan metropolis as the chaos that lies beyond. Hence, the hero must return to the jungle (the known world) to bring balance to the cosmos, i.e. order. Yes this sounds boring on paper, but it’s actually pulled off in a quite clever manner and kudos to everyone involved for doing just that.
In it, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) is put to the ultimate test after his village is raided and most of his friends and their wives are captured by another, “urban” tribe. Right from the get-go, we see how Jaguar Paw is determined to persevere until the very end of where this journey takes him: whether that’s the ultimate salvation or an ultimate doom. However, despite being caught like a fish in a net, Paw is a very proactive hero and is on the constant “prowl” for ideas on how to delude his captors and break a free man. Will his efforts lead to fruition?
Apocalypto is also a film about the constant struggle of humanity against the elements and against itself. This is mostly iterated through the ultimate dichotomy between the proverbial rain and the primordial sun (yes I’m stretching definitions here, but bear with me for a second); the sun becomes the ultimate savior of the hero, while the rain (water, mud, quicksand) is the ultimate nemesis against which Jaguar Paw and his closest ones constantly struggle.
The other enemy is other humans: different, yet ultimately the same. They’re afraid of the same potential perils as our hero is, but they choose to subdue them to their will and enact this power upon the masses to subdue them. Not so much different after all, since at the sole beginning Jaguar Paw and his friends were also enacting this “wrath” upon a wild boar during their hunt. The top predator is always the one who has the last laugh.
Ultimately, Apocaypto is a great feature and probably one that will be remembered for a long time to come.