Apocalypto (2006) 




Director:  Mel Gibson. 

Starring:  Rudy Youngblood (Jaguar Paw), Dalia Hernandez (Seven), Jonathan Brewer (Blunted), Morris Birdyellowhead (Flint Sky), Carlos Emilio Baez (Turtles Run), Ramirez Amilcar (Curl Nose), Israel Contreras (Smoke Frog), Israel Rios (Cocoa Leaf), Mara Isabel Daz (Mother in Law), Espiridion Acosta Cache (Old Story Teller), Mayra Serbulo (Young Woman), Iazua Larios (Sky Flower), Lorena Hernndez (Village Girl), Itandehui Gutierrez (Wife), Sayuri Gutierrez (Eldest Daughter).

Mayan Rambo just before the arrival of the Spanish



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

A group of Mayans are hunting a tapir.  They kill him by setting a trap for him in which a board with many sharp spikes pierce its body.  Then the men cut the meat up to be taken back to the village.  They play a practical joke on tribe member Blunted.  While they are cutting up the tapir, Jaguar Paw, the son of chief Flint Sky hears some stirring in the jungle.  He is surprised to see a man from another tribe appear.  There are a couple of men with him.  The tension starts to rise as the band under Flint Sky start to finger their weapons.  Flint Sky, however, jumps in to prevent any violence.  The newcomer explains that his lands have been ravished and they are looking for a place for a new beginning.  Flint Sky tells them to go in peace.  Men, women and children suddenly appear and walk pass Flint Sky and his group of hunters.  

Flint Sky and his men return to the village.  Blunted's mother-in-law meets him with a wicked, scolding tongue.  Blunted has not been able to get his wife pregnant and the mother-in-law has long since lost patience with him.  The scolding is so bad that the village residents laugh at Blunted.  The situation becomes worse for Blunted as he applies a supposed miracle plant to his private parts only to find that his privates now feel as though they are on fire.  He has to run from his house and plop himself into a trough of water to cool down.  The village is besides itself with laughter. 

Jaguar Paw has a feeling of uneasiness.  He hears the village dogs barking wildly.  He scours the village fringe to see if there is any danger.  What he sees is a coming attack on his village.  He gets his wife and child up and warns the village, but the attackers are upon the village already.  Jaguar Paw is able to let his pregnant wife and baby boy down a vine rope into a huge hole in the rocks.  While letting his family down the rope, he is attacked by one of the enemy.  Jaguar Paw is able to kill the aggressor. 

Things go badly for the village.  Many of the men are killed, while even more are taken prisoners.  The women are also enslaved.  The children are left behind.  Jaguar Paw runs back to the village to fight the enemy.   He is in the process of killing another of the enemy, when he is stopped by the leader of the raid.  The almost killed enemy, wants to kill Jaguar Paw, but the leader stops him.  The almost killed enemy gives Jaguar Paw a new name: "Almost".  When the man hears Jaguar Paw call another man his father, the man slits Flint Sky's throat right in front of his son.   

The men and women of the village are tied up and then attached to bamboo poles and led on a long walk back to "civilization".  Jaguar Paw is taunted continually by his father's killer.  The name giver is obviously a sadistic man.   He pushes one of the captives off a cliff to his death.  The raid leader is not happy about this and warns him not to do it again.

The caravan passes a burned out village where they see a young sick girl sitting by her dead mother.  She tries to approach the caravan but the guards will not let her get near them for fear of her illness.  She senses their fear and gives them a prophecy.  A jaguar will end you she says. The caravan arrives at the city.  The men from Flint Sky's village are painted blue.  This indicates that they are among those to be used for human sacrifice.  They are taken to the top of one of the pyramid-looking structures.  There one of the villagers is stabbed and his heart cut out from his body.  He is then beheaded.  The head is rolled down the steps of the pyramid followed by the body.  But when it is Jaguar Paw's turn, an eclipse of the sun brings a cessation of the human sacrifices for the day.  Those who were saved from being sacrificed are brought to an open field.  Two men at a time are told to run to the corn field behind which is the forest.  As they run the guards try to kill them with spears, javelins, arrows and stones.  Blunted is in one of the pairs.  Both men go down.  When it is Jaguar Paw's turn he and his partner run a zigzag pattern to avoid being hit.  His partner is killed and a long arrow pierces all the way through Jaguar Paw's body.  With the help of Blunted who is still alive and who holds the so-called "finisher", Jaguar Paw is able to kill the finisher after the finisher killed Blunted.  Jaguar Paw pulls out the arrow and takes off into the corn field.  The finisher was the son of the raid leader, who vows vengeance on Jaguar Paw.  This begins a long chase scene with a group of guards and the raid leader pursuing Jaguar Paw. 

The jungle starts to take a toll on the pursuers.  One man is bitten by a poisonous snake; another is killed by a jaguar; one is killed by the chief for refusing to follow after Jaguar Paw by jumping from the top of a high water fall into the river below; another guard is killed when he hits his head on some rocks in the river.  Jaguar Paw is able to kill another guard by hitting him several times with poison darts (the poison coming from the back skin of a poison frog).  The showdown with Jaguar Paw's arch enemy, his tormenter, comes next.    The tormentor has a hatchet and runs towards Jaguar Paw, while Jaguar Paw runs to grab the dead guard's hatchet.  They both reach the site of the hatchet about the same time, but the tormentor misses with his hatchet and Jaguar Paw is able to pick up the hatchet on the ground and kill his tormentor.  This leaves three men for Jaguar Paw to fight.  The raid leader shoots his last arrow and it strikes Jaguar Paw.  But the wounded man is able to pull out the arrow.  As the raid leader runs towards Jaguar Paw to finish him off, he finds that he has run into a trap.  As the men had killed the tapir, so did Jaguar Paw kill the raid leader. 

This leaves two men.  Jaguar Paw runs and runs but finds he is near exhaustion and falls to his knees on the beach.  The two men approach him wondering what he is staring at out in the ocean.  The surprise is three strange vessels.  The Spanish have arrived and are headed ashore.   As the two enemies stare at the sight, Jaguar Paw takes off to save his wife and boy who are now in danger of being drowned by the large amount of rain water rushing into their cave hole.  His wife is able to give birth to her baby in the water.  Jaguar Paw is able to reach them and bring them to safety.  As the four person family walks in the forest near the sight of the Spanish landings, the wife asks is they should stay in the area.  But Jaguar Paw says that they must move away from the beach and go deeper into the jungle to find a new beginning. 


Good movie.  The movie is quite a bit like a combination of the Passion of the Christ and Rambo.  In the first part of the movie the emphasis is on suffering: the village attacked, men and women killed, women raped, men and women enslaved, children forced to stay behind to live on their own, the sadistic cruelty of Jaguar Paw's tormentor, the terrible scenes of human sacrifice and sport killing of those men not used as human sacrifices.  Mel Gibson seems to like the idea of torture and suffering.  The big thing in the Passion of the Christ is the misery and suffering of Jesus.  I just don't think that much emphasis on suffering was necessary.  Gibson seems to like to slowly linger over torture and depravity. 

The second part of the movie is about the Mayan Rambo.  Jaguar Paw is Rambo who has suffered great injustices from the hands of horrifically evil men.  Rambo escapes and is pursued by a group of the enemy, who one by one are killed by the intelligent and athletic Mayan Rambo.  We at least receive some catharsis with the death of the evil men.  Hey, Rambo was a pretty good movie and this second part is also good.  But I was not expecting Rambo.  There is really very little history here.  And if I was Mayan, I would not like this movie at all.  The Mayans had at one time a relatively advanced civilization.  But now all they are good for is rape, murder, mayhem, slavery and human sacrifice. 

I was interested in the movie because of the handling of the Mayans, which is very rare indeed.  But the movie has no real historical value as far as I could tell.  And when the Spanish finally show up at the end of the movie, we are all a bit relieved because if all the Mayans are as evil as those in the movie it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if they were wiped out by the Spaniards. (Not that the Spanish were any paragons of virtue.)

There was a lot of mentions in movie reviews of the terrible violence in the movie.  But we have seen this kind of violence before.  It did not really bother me much.  What bothered me was the dwelling on the torture and suffering of human beings. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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