I caught Apocalypto today. I haven't seen any of those "classic" Mel Gibson pictures, such as Braveheart or The Passion of the Christ. I do own the musical scores (by James Horner and John Debney, respectively), but that's about the extent of my familiarity with his directorial work. Additionally, about the only thing I knew about Apocalypto itself before entering the theater was that Mel Gibson had inserted a batshit insane picture of himself into the preview.
Yeah. That's the one. It's fair to say that I was tainted against this movie from the start, just because I find Mel Gibson so despicable. Blame it on the booze all you want, Melvin, but the fact of that matter is that somewhere deep within that silly, bearded noggin of yours lies a deep-seated hatred of all things Jewlicious.
Where was I? Oh yes. Apocalypto. It was good. Was it REALLY good? Well, no. But it was entertaining. It's one half historical epic and one half Home Alone 5: Lost in Ancient Mayan Civilization. It is beautifully epic--there are some great human sacrifice scenes that remind me of my middle-school World Cultures class. At the same time, Jaguar's Paw (the hero of the story) is left to his own devices to survive in the woods, pursued by rival warriors. And there are a number of really funny testicle jokes. We're just three paint cans and one mysterious-yet-helpful stranger away from pure holiday hilarity.
The direction is competent. The acting comes from a broad spectrum of complicated emotions and comes off naturally--in many cases, more naturally than some English acting I've seen. There are moments you'll cringe, moments you'll cheer, and moments you'll laugh. You might even get teary-eyed. I can't imagine the thing will be up for any Oscars, but it's worth seeing and probably worth seeing again.
That's not to say that Apocalypto isn't without a fair number of flaws. A few loose ends abound, and I'm still curious to find out what happened to Jaguar's Paw's companions after the warriors all began to chase him. There are a number of laughable moments, mainly toward the end, that stretch the viewer far outside the boundaries of belief. To mention what those moments are would be to ruin essential plot points of the film. The things never struck me as unbelievable during the film, and only upon reflection do I think, "Well, that's pretty silly." My guess is that it won't distract you either.
The quality of the movie leads me to wonder why I was so unwilling to like it in the first place. Certainly, I've put aside a number of similar (or worse) transgressions in the name of entertainment. I still laugh at the wacky antics of Michael Richards on Seinfeld, and I can still be thoroughly moved by the works of Roman Polanski. Hell, I would have seriously considered buying O.J. Simpson's book out of sheer, morbid curiosity. What's wrong with the Gibson? He hasn't really steered me wrong. I enjoyed the first three Lethal Weapons and tolerated the fourth. I guiltily laughed through What Women Want. Hell, I'd even watch Forever Young again.
Maybe I'm just a bad person. Maybe I'm just bigoted against bigots.