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HTF REVIEW: APOCALYPTO



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#1 of 21 Matt Hough

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Posted May 13 2007 - 09:19 AM


Apocalypto
Directed by Mel Gibson

Studio: Touchstone
Year: 2006
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 138 minutes
Rating: R
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 Mayan
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $29.99

Release Date: May 22, 2007
Review Date: May 13, 2007

The Film

4/5

You’ll be surprised how much of the Mayan civilization seems very familiar while you watch Mel Gibson’s arresting historical drama Apocalypto. You’ll see youthful hijinks (think frat boy humor), a battleaxe mother-in-law, the thrill of the hunt, the importance of families and especially children, stories around a campfire, civil war, and many other customs which have maintained their hold on civilization for many centuries. It’s what Gibson does with these homilies, however, that gives Apocalypto its lure and its power.

Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) is a young Mayan man married with one child and another on the way, living in the waning days of the Mayan civilization. A surprise invasion of his village by a rival, bloodthirsty tribe takes many of the women and the remaining men who weren’t killed as captives. The trek to the Mayan city, their ultimate fates, and a breathless chase back through the jungle to the original village make up the remaining running time of the film. The dialog is spoken completely in the Mayan language with English subtitles, but much of the film doesn’t really require talk. The body language of the people, their facial expressions, and the many action sequences are all pretty self-explanatory and require only attention to get their points across. Of course, part of that attention involves witnessing some uber-vivid violence and much gore: all a part of the Mayan civilization, of course, but not an especially easy thing for those with weak constitutions.

The script by Mel Gibson and Farhad Safinia manages to include many of the reasons for the ebbing of the Mayan race at this point in its history, even before the landing of the Spanish on their shores. We see rampant disease, warring tribes, recalcitrant weather, an indifferent ruling class, and inefficient leadership as all contributing to the general decline in their quality of life, and director Gibson does his best to make sure his cameras catch these things in all their infamy. The last forty minutes of the film involve an extended chase of Jaguar Paw by the massive warrior Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujillo), his bullying second in command Middle Eye (Gerardo Taracena), and several others. Gibson directs it with amazing speed and excitement, but a chase through the jungle with various booby traps and escape routes is as old as The Most Dangerous Game, and it robs the film of some of its originality despite its undeniable tension.

The film’s production design, its sets, its costumes, the elaborate make-up, the hundreds of extras, and the thousands of artifacts give Apocalpyto a true epic feel, and Gibson, no stranger to epics such as Braveheart and The Patriot, helms it all with a sure hand. It’s another unusual entry from a filmmaker who never seems to fear stepping out on a cinematic limb.


Video Quality

5/5

The film’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio has been transferred to DVD in a beautiful anamorphic encoding. Shot with high definition Genesis camera equipment rather than film, the movie to DVD transfer is very sharp, beautifully colorful, and lacking artifacts other than a few very thin edge halos glimpsed at odd moments. The lush greens of the forest, the startling whites of the lime quarry, the turquoise paint smeared on the prisoners all come through with stunning clarity. The ivory colored subtitles are easy to read. The film has been divided into 19 chapters.

Audio Quality

5/5

The DTS 5.1 surround track is completely immersive and sends sound to all available channels constantly throughout the film’s running time. There is strong .1 LFE when needed, and the entire track is expertly designed. I did not listen to the entire film with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track engaged, but the few scenes I sampled with it sounded less full in the surrounds and slightly more anemic overall.

Special Features

3/5

The DVD offers three bonus items. First up is an audio commentary featuring director Mel Gibson and his co-writer/co-producer Farhad Safinia. It’s an easygoing conversation between two obvious friends and in direct contrast to the amped up mood and tension of the film itself, this dialog between the two men makes a comfortably agreeable listening experience.

Becoming Mayan: Creating ”Apocalypto” is a 25-minute documentary on the making of the film touching primarily on selecting the locations for shooting, the costume research and construction, the enormous make-up requirements for the film, and the weapons fashioned for use in the movie. While it’s a generally fluffy EPK piece, I was disappointed that such issues as casting, translating the script into Mayan, and teaching the actors to speak the dialect wasn’t touched on at all. Some of this is mentioned in the audio commentary, but it isn’t addressed here, and it should have been.

One brief thirty second deleted scene is offered with the option of Mel Gibson commentary on it. Again, in the commentary, Gibson mentions several scenes which were edited for their violence or for time, but they are not to be found on this set.

In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)

Apocalypto is a dynamic adventure film with an outstanding representation of the last days of the Mayan civilization before its invasion by Europeans. It’s certainly worthy of a long look by action buffs and by those wishing for a film with a different look and feel to it.


Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC

#2 of 21 David Brown Eyes

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Posted May 13 2007 - 10:07 AM

Good review, I am looking forward to purchaseing this film as I enjoyed it in the theaters.

Quote:
part of that attention involves witnessing some uber-vivid violence and much gore: all a part of the Mayan civilization, of course, but not an especially easy thing for those with weak constitutions.

Quote:
Apocalypto is a dynamic adventure film with an outstanding representation of the last days of the Mayan civilization before its invasion by Europeans.

I do take some issue with the above quotes. Although this is a fine film and I enjoyed it greatly, my Mayan friends take a very dim view as to how their culture was treated.

This is a hollywood film and not a historical representation and should not be viewed as historicaly or culturaly accurate. Watch this film for its action and visuals do not make the mistake of watching it for a look into Mayan culture.

#3 of 21 Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 13 2007 - 10:39 AM

Looking forward to this DVD! It is one of the best films I
saw last year. You can say what you will about Gibson
somewhere else, but you can't deny the fact that the man
makes great films.

Do not miss Apocalypto

Ronald J Epstein
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#4 of 21 Steve Christou

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Posted May 13 2007 - 10:59 AM

Looking forward to the DVD Ron, thanks for the review Matt.

I saw it at the cinema, a savagely violent look at the Mayan civilization of 500 years ago. The action is genuinely thrilling, particularly the last 30-45mins which had me on the edge of my seat, not many films do that these days, IMO. Worth checking out. Posted Image

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#5 of 21 Tim Glover

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Posted May 13 2007 - 11:25 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald Epstein
Looking forward to this DVD! It is one of the best films I
saw last year. You can say what you will about Gibson
somewhere else, but you can't deny the fact that the man
makes great films.

Do not miss Apocalypto


Agreed! One of the best films of 2006. The final 45 minutes or so was one of the most visual AND suspensful action sequences I've seen in a long, long time.

#6 of 21 onecent

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Posted May 13 2007 - 12:53 PM

Great review, Matt, but it doesn't sound like a movie I'd like much.

#7 of 21 David_B_K

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Posted May 13 2007 - 02:21 PM

Quote:
Posted by David Brown Eyes: I do take some issue with the above quotes. Although this is a fine film and I enjoyed it greatly, my Mayan friends take a very dim view as to how their culture was treated.

I remember reading that a woman who was a Mayan descendant challenged Gibson about his depiction of the Mayans in the film, suggesting that the Mayans never practiced human sacrifice as did the Aztecs. I have never read much about the Mayans, but I watched a program about them on the Discovery Channel a day or two ago which tended to side with the idea that the Mayans did, in fact, practice human sacrifice. There are several surviving stele which depict various forms of sacrificial bloodletting.

Some forms of the bloodletting involved only the Mayan rulers. One stele depicted a Mayan ruling female piercing her tongue with a stylus and drawing a length of cord through her tongue. The blood would have dripped onto some sort of altar as an offering to the gods. Another depicted a ruling male jamming a stylus through his foreskin as a similar blood offering.

Carvings and murals also depicted human sacrifice as practiced by the Mayans, in which internal organs are removed from living victims by priests. Mayan defenders have long suggested that the claims of human sacrifice were invented by the Spanish conquistadores as a way of justifying their conquest of the Mexican Indian empires. They probaly exaggerated the numbers of victims, but as the evidence of the sacrifices is provided by Mayan art, it seems pointless to me for some of Mayan descent to deny this.

It also seems pointless to judge a pre-Columbian culture by today's standards and mores. What seems cruel and barbaric to us would have seemed normal and necessary to those people. IMO, people should not feel ashamed of how their ancestors behaved; nor should they live in denial about it either. It seems that every time someone makes a film, some group or other gets all upset about how their people are portrayed, as if the behavior of people long ago somehow reflects badly on their descendants today.

#8 of 21 Nathan V

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Posted May 14 2007 - 04:59 AM

Good review. Unquestionably one of the most riveting, exhilerating, and unique cinematic experiences of recent years. The final chase scene is beyond description. Gibson's directorial abilities are superb.

Regards,
Nathan
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#9 of 21 Anthony Thorne

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Posted May 15 2007 - 11:27 PM

I'm very keen to see this, and the straight, high praise and kudos from Ron and others who have seen it through this thread has turned this into a blind-buy for me. It sounds like a ripper.

#10 of 21 Tim Glover

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Posted May 16 2007 - 01:52 AM

It's VERY different...but once you're in....you are in until the very end. Posted Image

#11 of 21 Rhett_Y

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Posted May 16 2007 - 03:03 AM

I agree.. this one is a blind buy for me too.. I can't wait!
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#12 of 21 Okotta

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Posted May 16 2007 - 06:20 AM

Does the DVD have normal english subtitles or has it only been given closed captions?

#13 of 21 Thommy...M

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Posted May 16 2007 - 08:56 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhett_Y
... this one is a blind buy for me too..
I walked into the theater to see this completely blind (just knew it was set amongst the Mayans and had subtitles) and I walked out of the theater loving it. You are in for something special with this one. The idea that films can take us to other worlds is never more true than here.

The review got me so psyched for the release. Can't wait to see this film again.

Besides, until THE NAKED PREY comes out on DVD, APOCALYPTO will do nicely.

#14 of 21 Matt Hough

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Posted May 16 2007 - 09:01 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Okotta
Does the DVD have normal english subtitles or has it only been given closed captions?

Normal English subtitles.

#15 of 21 Jon Martin

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Posted May 16 2007 - 10:46 AM

I'm glad those here liked the film, but I did want to point out to those blind buying it that not all the reviews were as positive as some of those posting here. The critical reaction was very mixed. I can honestly say it was one of my least favorite films of last year, so I will not be buying it.

And I also should point out the violence in the film is closer to that of an extreme horror film than it is say a MAD MAX film.

Again, not trying to change anyones opinion, just putting out a warning for those blind buying it.

#16 of 21 Bo_Darville

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Posted May 16 2007 - 01:29 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Martin
I'm glad those here liked the film, but I did want to point out to those blind buying it that not all the reviews were as positive as some of those posting here. The critical reaction was very mixed. I can honestly say it was one of my least favorite films of last year, so I will not be buying it.

And I also should point out the violence in the film is closer to that of an extreme horror film than it is say a MAD MAX film.

Again, not trying to change anyones opinion, just putting out a warning for those blind buying it.
much appreciated. balance is a good thing.

#17 of 21 BarryS

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Posted May 17 2007 - 03:47 PM

I really liked this movie. I'm no historian or archaeologist so I can't say how accurate it is, but it's a movie, not a PBS documentary. It works very well at transporting the viewer to a long-lost civilization. It's worth seeing for the beautiful cinematography alone. It looks stunning. I wouldn't step into a Central-American jungle for anything, but there's some truly amazing scenery there.

#18 of 21 Chris Moe

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Posted May 18 2007 - 07:11 AM

I missed this one in the theaters and I keep kicking myself for doing so. I'll be bumping this one up to the top of my netflix queue right after I hit the post button. Thanks for the review.

#19 of 21 Yumbo

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Posted May 22 2007 - 05:32 PM

It's worth watching, but I thought it over-rated.
Didn't like the HD video movement (VERY distracting), like watching a making of, which I actually preferred on the disc. It was the inconsistency which annoyed me. Some scenes were film-like.

Violence was tame I thought.

At least James Horner didn't go overboard on this one, and actually served the film.

Slightly predictable as well.

My day on a jungle set the day before probably left me jaded, grin.

#20 of 21 Mike Frezon

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Posted May 23 2007 - 05:04 AM

I've been anticipating this release. Apocalypto was, yet again, another film I missed in the theater.

My anticipation has just been ratcheted-up by the descriptions in this thread. Thanks, everyone! Posted Image

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