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:
- The movie is good
- The movie has nothing to do with Jesus
- 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.
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.