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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Why You Should See Apocalypto

In my last post, I recommended Apocalypto, while warning that it is not for the squeamish. It's a great film and I firmly believe, as I said, that if this had been directed by anyone besides Mel Gibson, it would have been hailed as a masterpiece by Hollywood elites and critics alike.

It is simply a gorgeous movie. It's a feast for the eyes. The story is simple but very effectively told. Since the whole movie is in the Yucatec language, Gibson keeps the dialogue to a minimum. It takes special skill to tell a story without having character dialog or narration to explain things. They say a story-teller should "show" and not "tell." Gibson is the master at that. And to truly appreciate the complexity of the story, you must watch the movie at least twice. The subtleties of the story arc were much more appreciated by me the second time.

Certainly one of the reasons that the politically correct thought police disliked Apocalypto is that it is unabashedly pro-colonial. While the Europeans have very little screen time, they are arguably the most important characters in the film. The Spaniards bringing Christianity to the shores of paganism truly are the deus ex machina. The Mayans are portrayed as a society destroying itself, curved inward, unable to suppress the corruption from within. Just when hope is lost, the saviors arrive. This makes every new beginning possible.

In spite of their many scientific and cultural accomplishments, the ancient Mayans were brutal and savage to an extreme. I'm not saying that classic European society was violence-free, but the values and worldview of Christianity shaped Western culture to make it the great and wonderful phenomena it has been, extolling liberty, justice, knowledge, beauty and faith - in short, the peak of civilization.

But what about the much ballyhooed degree of violence? The gore-hounds surely will not be disappointed. People do get hurt and people do die. And it doesn't always happen off-screen. And it is seldom pretty. So for a society that prefers to paint our dead to appear alive and hire strangers to wash and dress our deceased for us, this will shock. But I don't see how Gibson could have shown the peril of the characters' world without revealing injury and death convincingly.

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1 comment:

dave speers said...

Hi Scott,

Just wanted to leave a comment about Apocalypto. Thought that it was an amazing movie and tend to agree with you about the cultural conclusions concerning the west coming etc.

However, I have to say that it just seems to remind me of almost every Gibson movie I have seen. They all revolve around a man and his family, especially his wife (think especially Lethal Weapon) and/or family (think The Patriot), and the need to protect them or even avenge them. It is almost predictable. I have to say that while the movie was well-done, amazingly acted with the folk that he chose, I was disappointed with the story.

just my 2 cents

dave speers

New Curriculum at Concordia Theological Seminary