Violence doesn’t bother me, so my objection to this film doesn’t stem from that (though that is the core of many critical reviews I read). I am bothered that Gibson portrays it as being meaningful, when it bordered on pointless. Beyond that, Apocalypto was a used storyline.
I went in knowing a smattering of pre-Columbian history, so I was looking forward to a bit of insight into Mayan culture. Instead, very little is displayed of Mayan culture – except the human sacrifice part… we stayed there for a bit. In fact, we were treated to the view of a head bouncing down the stairs of the pyramid, from the head’s perspective (there’s a new ride idea for Universal Studios).
Used storyline? Yep. This movie was Rambo/Predator B.C. Our hero is pursued into his jungle by 7 Mayans, whom he proceeds to pick off one by one. It was such a used premise, it almost started to seem like a “Scary Movie” parody. At one point, the hero catches his main enemy in a pig trap… three spikes through the torso. He walks up to look at him in his eye. I found myself clutching my popcorn. “Say it! Say it,” I cried. I just so wanted him to snarl and say in a perfect Arnold accent - “Stick around!”
I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending, but I couldn’t cause you know where it will end by the first hour. Gibson obviously wanted one of those M. Night Shyamalan endings. It looked like one, but it didn’t feel like it. There was such a big build up to it; the natives looking stunned, out at the ocean. The moment kept hanging til I think half the audience was thinking “Just show the damn Europeans!” When the moment came, it was so cliché I was more in danger of barfing at that moment then when the heads were bouncing.
To me, this movie failed the way Lucas’s last three Star Wars movies failed. Lucas became absorbed in neato special effects, and forgot to infuse the movies with story. Gibson is falling into the same trap with graphic gore. The violence in Braveheart had a point, and it sat amidst a good story.
Apocalypto doesn’t offer anything that Predator and Rambo didn’t; and those two were more fun to watch.