Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

17 December 2006


You're probably not going to believe this, but I quite liked Apocalypto. I'm not sure that the title has anything to do with anything, but the movie's good anyway. I've heard people muttering that it's the most violent movie they've ever seen--Joe Morgenstern said so in his review--but compared to other Mel Gibson films, I don't think they're quite right about that. It's definitely violent and bloody and all of that, but certainly less so than The Passion of the Christ, Payback and The Patriot--don't get me started on tThe Patriot.
The thing is, Apocalypto is really about violence, and it's quite thought-provoking. It recalls human atrocities on all continents in a real and fascinating way. I found it very powerful in its ability to evoke things like Holocaust work camps, sub-saharan Africa, and Roman gladatorial slaughters--all in the span of about four minutes. It's quite extraordinary.
It's also visually stunning. Gibson is a true visionary. I mean, I think he's batshit crazy in real life, don't get me wrong, but no one is making movies like this. It's a very Hollywood style of filmmaking, but it's also unique and special and feels groundbreaking in a lot of ways.
It has its problems, too--a Hell of a lot of running and inopportune introductions of comedic sequences--but for he most part he stays on track and the film picks up steam. It's impossible not to root for the hero, and I can't imagine watching the movie and not thinking about Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo or Srebrenića.
If you're not into violence, of course, don't go. But Apocalypto's violence is not on the relentless, snuff-film scale of The Passion of the Christ, and the visuals are worth the ride.