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July 21, 2007

Bonus Mini-Review: Apocalypto

Since I'm clearing the decks of all the reviews I've meant to write but haven't, I'll just ask:

Has anyone else seen this miserable piece of shit?

What a disappointment. I initially had no interest in this movie, then critics began praising it for Gibson's genius at executing simple but visceral thrillers.

Wrong. Half of it is a sadistic forced march through the jungle, then the other half is running through the jungle back home. I liked the first part better, when at least I could tell myself "Sure, this is sort of boring and unpleasant, but the wicked-cool vengeance action is coming!"

Then the vengeance action came. I wept.

There are simple plots and then there are non-plots. This movie is in the latter category. The action is lame and nothing that hasn't been done before -- again, see Rambo if you want a dude running through the jungle randomly taking people out with snakes and crap -- and I really have to stress the randomness of the villain take-outs. Suddenly a snake bites one; suddenly a pather eats another. Has nothing to do with the hero, Jaguar Paw; it just seems the jungle is coming alive to save him.

His big clever attack on the villains is an, um, bee-bomb. He wraps a wasp's nest in big jungle fronds and throws it like a buzzing grenade. Ooooh. Oh, and the curare poison darts, I guess.

There's really no pacing here at the end. Just every five minutes, some guy gets it from a snake. Or a panther. Or an, um, bee bomb.

The Mayan capital was supposed to be breath-taking, I guess, but for once -- I really could have used some CGI, guys. Just looked like a couple of pyramids and some weirdly-pained and plumed jagoffs milling about.

I was sort of wondering how on earth Jaguar Paw could possibly escape the long decapitating the captives sequence, and couldn't see any possible way to fight off so many armed guards. It occurred to me that the old Conveniently Occurring Solar Eclipse could happen, but I figured that was too obvious, too cheesy, and too cliched.

Um.... wrong. That's exactly what happened.

Just like in A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court. And, um, the Martin Lawrence California Negro in a Medieval English Court flick Black Knight.

Liked it a lot more in Black Knight.

At the halfway point of the movie, a spooky, disease-demented girl delivers a prophecy, basically suggesting that Jaguar Paw will be the undoing of the entire Mayan Empire. Okay, so.... I guess Jaguar Paw will rally the other tribes to overthrow them? Nah, historically jackass. Okay, not PC, but I guess that means Jaguar Paw will help the European conquistadors destroy the Mayans? Again, not PC, but that's pretty much what happened to the Aztecs; Cortez was greatly assisted by the tribes the Aztecs had subjugated and murdered for years. So, okay, I guess that's what this big prophecy means: For his ultimate vengeance, he'll lead the Apocalypse-bringing white men against the horrid Mayans.

Nope. Cop-out. The prophecy is just forgotten. At the end Jaguar Paw just slides back into the jungle, and the conquistadors show up and, presumably, get ready to do some hardcore conquistadoring. He leaves the two groups of conquerors, indigenous and European, to their own devices, which is fine, but I'm still scratching my head about what that spooky insane girl was talking about.

I guess... she was just insane. Fine, I guess. But then why did I have to listen to her for three minutes?

Also, the whole conceit in speaking in ancient Indian tongues is pointless. It might have made sense with The Passion, but as far as I know there is no Gospel of Jaguar Paw nor a Squid Ink's Letter to the Corinthians, so I'm really not getting the need for linguistic accuracy in a dumb jungle-run chase movie.

Only good part: For the first time (I think), we get to see the blunt-force impact from a club cracking a skull enough to cause a puslating arterial spray right out of the head. Sure, we've seen the arterial spray from necks and chests before; but right out of the forehead? Nice.

So, there you go: There is precisely 3 seconds of worthy material here. Enjoy.

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posted by Ace at 09:57 PM

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