Apocalypto Movie Review – About as historically accurate as Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

11 Dec

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Watch the trailer Here

I went and saw Apocalypto this past weekend, lured by overwhelmingly good reviews and by a interest in seeing a portrayal of the people who inhabited the land of my ancestors (I am Colombian).

First, let me say I am baffled by 3 things I kept reading in the reviews:

  1. The movie is good
  2. The movie has nothing to do with Jesus
  3. The movie is bloody

All are inaccurate, to put it mildly.

Historical Inaccuracy / Outright fabrication and Propaganda

First off, the movie focuses on Human sacrifice This is often as aspect of the culture of the Mayas/Aztecs that is brought up by Christians as an illustration to what happens to godless pagan cultures when they do not have Christ. Mel Gibson, during the Human Sacrifice scenes, goes to great lengths to portray the people engaging in the sacrifice as possessed. Eyes roll into the back of the head, bodies shake and convulse, deformed and hideous people smile wickedly at the blood letting. His message is clear: these people are possessed by evil force, by demons, and they do the bidding of the devil.

The movie ends with the calvary coming. The calvary being the Spanish conquistadors, bearing crosses and all. The message from Mel is clear as well..people without Jesus are ruled by the Devil, and only when the light of Christianity reaches them does the devil flee. He implies that without the Spanish and the Christianity they brought, the peoples of South America would have continued to slide into a moral decadence of orgies of blood and ritual sacrifice.

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The ironic thing about this is that the Maya barely partook of Human Sacrifice, and there is some debate as to whether they did Human Sacrifice at ALL. Why is there so much disagreement? Because the invading Spaniards used human sacrifice as a propaganda tool to justify slaughtering and conquering the Christless savages. “These godless brown people slaughter their own to their pagan god, they need Jesus.”

Modern archeology proves that tales of thousands upon thousands being ritually sacrificed was greatly exaggerated, if not outright fabricated. If anything, the Aztecs were guilty of the sacrifices. Mel even shows Aztec-style sacrifice ritual (painting body blue, tossing bodies and severed heads down steps). Why? This is supposed to be the Mayas, not the Aztecs. Why not use Maya rituals instead of Aztec? The simple reason is the Mayas didn’t do this stuff, and if they did, they barely did it at all. We don’t even know how they went about doing it, all records are lost or so saturated with politically motivated propaganda its impossible to know the truth. SO since we have no clue as to how, if at all, the Mayas engaged in ritual human sacrifice, Mel used the Aztec rituals instead. I guess he figures all them brown-skinned indigenous people are the same.

So thorough was the Spanish genocide of the Maya culture, peoples and religion that we can’t be sure of much anything about them any longer. An example is, the Spanish claimed the Mayas would slice open victims chests with an Obsidian knife and rip out the still-beating heart. The fact is, it’s impossible to slice open a human sternum with an obsidian cutting instrument, no matter how sharp. Same goes for the rib cage protecting the heart. The Mayas did not have metal tools.

Mel’s movie, despite it’s generous fabrication of History, realizes this simple fact. So the movie portrays the Mayas as cutting open victims stomach instead, and ripping out the heart by reaching under the sternum. Kind of long-winded solution to the obvious caught-in-a-lie scenario of cutting open a human chest, as the Conquistadors claimed.

In addition, Mel uses a total solar eclipse in the movie as a means to allow our hero to escape certain doom at the sacrificial altar. (lazy writing as well..Im thinking to myself..how the FUCK is he going to escape from this fate? and then bam Mel writes in “total..solar..eclipse..people get surprised..hero gets to escape” Way to go Mel! Amazingly slick writing there.)

I checked a catalog of Solar eclipses during the 16th Century. First contact by the Spanish with Maya civilization was around 1517. The movie shows first contact, or at least an early contact of the Spaniards shortly after the eclipse. This places the film’s setting at around 1517.

The two total solar eclipses that occurred during the year of 1517 at 49.6N 15.4E, and 45.7S 109.6E were visible no where near the Americas. The ones during late 1516 did not take place anywhere near the Americas either.

In addition, Mel has the Mayas completely taken by surprise at the Solar Eclipse. Uh mel,the Maya were HIGHLY advanced astronomers. I know you want to think of them as bloodthirsty savages, but no. The Maya astronomical codices include detailed tables for calculating recurrences of solar and lunar eclipses far far into the future and the cycles of the planet Venus. They were more advanced than the Europeans when it came to astronomy, and had a more accurate calendar to boot. No daylight savings time (otherwise known as oops, the Gregorian calendar sucks so bad we have to totally readjust every single year) for the Maya. The Maya were the only pre-telescopic civilization to know that the Orion Nebula was fuzzy / a group of stars, rather than an actual single point of light.

So yeah..the Mayas being totally surprised by eclipses would be like the general public being totally surprised at another pantiless photo of Paris Hilton cooter showing up again.

Mel is essentially using the same propaganda the Conquistadors used over 5 centuries ago..that the Maya were savage people who killed thousands of their own people to a pagan god in a gruesome and hideous manner.

I think that what is really sad, about the way Christianity spread throughout the world, is not only that it was spread via relentless bloodshed, but that it destroyed ancient cultures and religious beliefs. The Maya remain existence, they did not go totally extinct, but modern Maya have an almost total adoption of Roman Catholicism.

During the bloody Spanish conquest of the Maya, all written records of Maya history found were ordered to be burnt by zealous Christian Spanish priests. Way to go Jesus. I think something worse than Genocide alone, is Genocide combined with eradication of an entire cultures history. It’s like rubbing them TOTALLY out of existence forever.

The movie generally was not that good anyway

The Basic story of the film is village gets pillaged, Hero is capture, hero escapes and hero kills his six pursuers, except for the last two. He is saved in the end, by the invading Spanish Conquistadors. It;s not epic, he dosn’t retreat to the jungle and raise a giant army and gets revenge on the Maya. He dosn’t die. No tragedy. It’s not even that bloody. Contrary to many Reviews, it was not bloody at all to me. Maybe I am spoiled by Japanse horror films like Ichi the Killer, but there was barely any gore. I was expecting to see babies dashed against rocks, pregnant women cut open, fetuses ripped out, eyeballs pulled out with hooks etc. But none of that. I was disappointed in the low level of gore and violence. Even the human sacrifice scenes were PG-13 to me. We saw more graphic decapitations in India Jones and the Last Crusade.

The acting at least, is quite good. And there are a few boobies. And one somewhat ‘cool’ action sequence at the very very end.

But if you do go and watch this film, watch the Jaguar attack towards the end. It is so fake looking it is comical. It looks like someone struggling with a panther-shaped slipper pretending to be mauled. At least PETA won’t complain when the Jaguar is killed since it’s so blatantly obvious it is a fake Jaguar you’d have to be an idiot to believe otherwise.

In summary, Mel made another Christian propaganda film, and didn;t bother to consult history books at all or astronomical charts before writing this piece of shit.

About the only redeeming factor of this film was the beautiful on location scenery in Mexico.

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12 Responses to “Apocalypto Movie Review – About as historically accurate as Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”

  1. blackdave December 12, 2006 at 12:53 am #

    interesting
    Haven’t seen the movie, but interesting review that I can’t at all disagree with. And it seems to fit what Mel Gibson is trying to get out. He has his agenda, and looks like he trying to disguise it.
    Now I don’t have to go see the movie myself and be disapointed that its blatantly bad/innacurate/poorly written
    Last few movie reviews you’ve done I’ve disagreed with, but in this case I bet you hit the mark.
    Thanks for saving me the pain of seeing a stinker.

  2. Anonymous December 15, 2006 at 2:50 pm #

    BOOYAKASHA!
    Damn! Give it to em, Dan!
    ~D

  3. motherwell December 21, 2006 at 8:16 pm #

    Thanks for the Info!
    Mel Gibson, distort historical facts? That’s INCONCEIVABLE!! I’m shocked SHOCKED and hurt HURT that anyone would insinuate such a thing THING. Next you’ll be telling us the British didn’t torch a temple full of Jews like we saw in “The Patriot.”
    There’s also the fact that this movie is supposed to be about the beginning of the Mayas’ decline, but that actually happened long BEFORE the Spanish showed up.
    This is a good review. Do you mind if I cite it in my own LJ? Also, do you have any particular sources you can cite for your debunking?

    • bboyneko December 21, 2006 at 8:36 pm #

      Re: Thanks for the Info!
      I already cited my source for the ecilpse info, and the orion nebula stuff and maya versus aztec rituals and doubt over human sacrifice is well-established. A search through various encyclopedia or science /archeology articles about maya vs Aztec should bring up the same info I bring up.
      The year of first contact is well-established, and the Propaganda of the Spaniards against the Maya and Aztecs is also well-established.

  4. Anonymous January 11, 2007 at 11:09 pm #

    Marla
    The whole eclipse thing threw me, too. I was so confused when the people were so shocked by it. My knowledge of history is severely lacking, but I knew that they would have been able to predict a solar eclipse. (I actually learned something in school!!!)Seemed so random and out of place. And it was far too big a piece of the story to be so illogical.
    I think, overall, though, that I was much less disappointed by this movie than most people b/c I went in expecting it to be like that. I expected the historical accuracy to be crap. And I expected the the portrayal of the Maya to be biased and unfair. So yeah, all that stuff was bad, but I saw it coming, so I wasn’t as up in arms over it.
    People like melodromatic movies. Not historically accurate ones. And people aren’t as open to other religious views as I wish they were. Now, though, I’ve got my own anti-mainstream religion bias. I’m not proud of it, but I can’t seem to shake it. Christianity can be a wonderful thing if people use it for comfort and as motivation to make the world a better place. Historically, though, Christianity is just a big bully, and that really bothers me. So many beautiful pagan religions were distorted and sometimes nearly destroyed. How does THAT make the world better? Judaism mostly keeps to itself, at least, but I’ve got plenty of issues with it, too. There are a million different variations to paganism and there are certainly plenty of things that don’t match my personal beliefs, but the common thread seems to doing good. I mean, take the Wiccan Rede, for example: “harm none”. (That’s the ultra-simplified version, but it gets the main point accross.) Christianity doesn’t seem to follow that rule. Harming people is A-OK as long as it furthers your “higher” goals.

  5. Anonymous July 13, 2007 at 7:55 am #

    you do iz besz
    Hi all!
    Looks good! Very useful, good stuff. Good resources here. Thanks much!
    G’night

  6. Anonymous July 28, 2007 at 2:35 pm #

    A damning review…….l like it!
    Thankyou for a sane review of yet another insane fantasy being passed off as “historically accurate” and “well researched….”That phrase has come to mean;nobody is alive who can sue us,so we can pretty well do what we like.
    As l watched it l was immediately struck by this thought;did not the
    early conquistadores;-Pizzaro and Cortez first encounter the Aztac/Toltec/Inca civilisations in a state of decline….the Mayan
    had already faded into history as had it’s buildings and culture into the Yucatan jungle?.Hollywood has become a true spin-doctor of history and Mel Gibson panders to this while pushing a bigoted private agender.

    • Anonymous August 6, 2007 at 10:17 pm #

      Re: A damning review…….l like it!
      I am a teacher of South American Civilizations – albeit at a middle school level – so we don’t get into very advanced concepts – but a fundamental fact is the one that you brought up here – The Mayan civilization was nearly completely inexistent by the time the Spanish arrived. Sure people of Mayan ancestry lived there, as they still do to this day – but the cities and any advanced form of civilization was gone hundreds of years before the Spanish came.
      I also found the solar eclipse thing a bit much as well.
      Visually stunning in terms of scenery – but from a historical point of view – crap!
      Kirk – Germany

  7. Anonymous August 16, 2007 at 10:47 pm #

    old review, but i watched the movie just now 🙂
    Hi!
    I think you can understand the end of the movie in two ways:
    1.
    I think if Mel Gibson would think of the Mayas as savage, brown-skinned
    indigenous people that are all the same, we wouldnt have made a
    movie about them with one of them in the leading part.
    And I also dont think Mel Gibson made “another
    christian propaganda film”. At the end of the movie i see two
    boats coming towards the coast. One with the cross and priests,
    and the other one with soldiers – where the front soldier-guy is
    looking the same like the front guy from the pursuers but with a
    beard (maybe its the same actor..).
    And the music is also not that “happy & shiny & yuppie the
    christian salvation is near”. So for me that means, that the
    story will repeat itself…the spanish/christians/new people will
    kill the Mayas in the name of religion like the rich-modern-Mayas
    killed the poor-backward-Mayas in the name of (their) religion.
    (they didnt killed “each other”). SO there is no pro
    christian message in that scene.
    2.But on the other hand, as the spanish arrived, the fight was
    over. The three Mayas stopped killing each other. The Movie had
    an happy end (for the main actor and his family)… That leaves me
    a bit confused about the meaning of the end of the movie…
    But, i am still for the first version 🙂

  8. Anonymous May 10, 2008 at 7:27 am #

    Political view
    I saw the same movie but I didn’t see a bunch of mindless savages. Where do you see the comparison of Christianity to the Maya? and the Spaniards looking like saviors? I saw an advanced, resourceful, tough as nails culture lead by a select corrupt few that used their knowledge of not only lunar cycles but from what it looked like, drought and rain cycles as well, to dupe the uninformed ( not brainless savages ) into believing sacrifice was the way to please the gods and bring about change, that the corrupt leaders already knew would come. Look at the part again where the eclipse starts to the time it finishes and you will see the executioners and elders actions, and expressions explain that they know full well what is happening and are using it to exploit the masses that were purposely kept in the dark about these cycles to control them. So where is the political aspect you say?
    Well, replace the human sacrifice with the price we pay for a failed energy policy and Replace the evil people with U.N. officials, Politicians and in their pocket the environmental alarmists funded by government. Then add the scam that they have everyone believing that we can change global cycles if we pay enough in taxes to make it happen and you have in essence the same theme without the violence. Well some would argue that there is violence with food riots started in third world countries fueled by the tax payer subsidized bio-fuel boon doggle which has shifted a wide scale use of a product, corn, that already had an intended purpose ( food) for fuel. The politically driven subsides have spawned a shift from planting other crops to corn.
    Since It takes 450 pounds of corn to produce the ethanol to fill one SUV tank, (450 pounds of corn is enough corn to feed one person for a year) you can see the problem this creates. Couple this with Global warming hysteria and no economical, wide scale replacement in sight for fossil fuel, while we ignore the signs currently upon us, and you have a recipe for disaster. And who pays the most for this policy? The working class slaves, not the rich, informed, well to do.
    Again, look at the part when the eclipse occurs and ends, they knew it and used it against the people. Am I saying or do I think this movie is saying that they are all corrupt and evil? Certainly not. But just like in present day America there are always a few bad apples willing to cloud issues and politicize them to spoil it for all but the ones in power.

  9. Anonymous May 27, 2008 at 9:09 am #

    Maya
    I think the review is kind of biased. I dont really care or follow what Mel Gibson says but from looking at the movie and researching the Maya he was actually quite accurate. There were still Maya cities around when the spainish arrived. The review above this is totally correct in stating that the king and the priest knew exactly what was going on with the eclispe. Yes the priest and kings would usually believe in their own religon but that doesnt mean that there couldnt be some rulers who manipulated the population. There is also evidence that the Maya sacrificed humans as well as often doing this brutally but I do agree with the review when it states that Mel gibson did not show the civilizations achievements. He also didnt show the self mutilation the upper class practiced on themselves. The movie may have exageratted the scale of human sacrifice but these rulers were becoming desparate. They could have resorted to killing more and more people. By the way, give the director some artistic license.

  10. brian856894 October 27, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    I have done a lot of studying on the Ancient Mayan civilization and actually wrote a 10 page paper for one of my college classes. There has been evidence of the Maya using human sacrifice and sometimes it was children. This of course only happened during droughts and other natural disasters that made them think that their gods were unhappy. There is also evidence that they would sacrifice the loosing team during the ball game that they played. This game was usually played during ritual so, it does make sense.

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