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Apocalypto: A Review of the Epic Historical Film by Mel Gibson

Apocalypto is a 2006 American epic historical action-adventure film produced, co-written, and directed by Mel Gibson. The film features a cast of Native American and Indigenous Mexican actors consisting of Rudy Youngblood, Raoul Trujillo, Mayra Sérbulo, Dalia Hernández, Gerardo Taracena, Rodolfo Palacios, Bernardo Ruiz Juarez, Ammel Rodrigo Mendoza, Ricardo Diaz Mendoza, and Israel Contreras. Set in Yucatán around the year 1502, Apocalypto portrays the hero's journey of a young man named Jaguar Paw, a late Mesoamerican hunter and his fellow tribesmen who are captured by an invading force. After the devastation of their village, they are brought on a perilous journey to a Mayan city for human sacrifice at a time when the Mayan civilization is in decline.

The film was released on December 8, 2006 and received mostly positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. It was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Makeup, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. It also won nine awards and received 23 nominations from various film festivals and organizations. The film was a box office success, grossing over $120 million worldwide on a budget of $40 million.


The Plot

The film begins with a quote from American historian Will Durant: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within."

While hunting in the Mesoamerican rainforest, Jaguar Paw, his father Flint Sky, and their fellow tribesmen encounter a group of refugees fleeing from war and devastation. Returning to their village, Flint Sky notes that the refugees are sick with fear and urges Jaguar Paw to never allow fear to infect him. Later that night, the tribe gathers around an elder who tells a prophetic story about a being who is consumed by an emptiness that cannot be satisfied, despite having all the gifts of the world offered to him. The being will continue blindly taking until there is nothing left in the world for him to take, and the world is no more.

The next morning, the village is attacked by Mayan raiders led by Zero Wolf, and many are killed, including Flint Sky, who is killed by the sadistic raider Middle Eye. Jaguar Paw manages to hide his pregnant wife Seven and their young son Turtles Run in a deep hole near their hut before being captured along with many of his tribesmen. They are then forced to embark on a long and brutal march to the Mayan city, where they are intended to be sacrificed to the gods.

Along the way, they encounter a diseased girl who prophesies that Zero Wolf's party will be wiped out by the forest itself. They also witness a solar eclipse that spares Jaguar Paw's life from being sacrificed on top of a pyramid. He then escapes from his captors and runs back to the forest pursued by Zero Wolf and his men. He uses his hunting skills and knowledge of the terrain to evade and kill his pursuers one by one. He also encounters a Spanish ship arriving on the shore with conquistadors bearing crosses.

He finally reaches his village and rescues his wife and son from the flooded pit. They decide to leave their old home and seek a new one in the forest. As they walk away, they see the Spanish ships on the horizon.

The Themes

The film explores various themes such as survival, courage, sacrifice, family, culture, civilization, greed, violence, and faith. The film also depicts the contrast between the peaceful and harmonious life of Jaguar Paw's tribe and the decadent and oppressive society of the Mayans. The film also suggests that the Mayan civilization was doomed by its own corruption and excesses.

The film also raises questions about the impact of colonization on indigenous peoples and cultures. The arrival of the Spanish conquistadors at the end of the film implies that a new cycle of violence and exploitation will begin for the natives. The film also implies that history repeats itself as civilizations rise and fall due to their own actions or external forces.

The Reception

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. It has an approval rating of 66% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 212 reviews with an average rating of 6.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Apocalypto is a brilliantly filmed, if mercilessly bloody, examination of a once great civilization." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 68 out of 100 based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". The film also has an IMDb rating of 7.8 out of 10 based on 323,000 user ratings.

The film was praised for its direction, cinematography, action sequences, production design, and performances of the cast. Many critics also commended the film for its authenticity and originality in portraying a rarely seen historical period and culture. Some critics, however, criticized the film for its historical inaccuracies, graphic violence, and negative portrayal of the Mayans.

The film was also controversial for its depiction of human sacrifice and torture. Some Mayan activists and scholars protested against the film for portraying their ancestors as savages and barbarians. They also accused the film of distorting the history and culture of the Mayans. Gibson defended his film by saying that he wanted to show the dark side of human nature and that he did not intend to offend anyone.

The Conclusion

Apocalypto is a powerful and captivating film that offers a glimpse into a fascinating and forgotten world. It is a film that challenges the viewers to reflect on their own civilization and humanity. It is a film that showcases Gibson's talent as a filmmaker and storyteller. It is a film that deserves to be seen and appreciated.


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