Apocalypto may not be the worst movie ever made, but it's close
I find it very hard to hate movies. This may not be self evident, so let me provide proof: I liked Waterworld. I would’ve paid to watch it in the cinema. I thought “Hackers” was funny as all hell. Van Helsing was one of my all-time favourite movies. There are really very few movies I can’t sit through,and I can only really recall two:* The Net * Dungeons and Dragons
Even then, I made myself watch them both, boiling with spittle all the while. I was lucky that I didn’t watch those movies in the cinema, because I often had to pause, regain my intestinal fortitude, and continue. With Apocalypto, I wasn’t so lucky. Heed my warning, and don’t watch this movie. It was a mix of cliche and stupid.
The idea is good. An exploration of the Mayan way of life is good. The first 15 minutes of the movie is good. The colours, the shots, and the lighting are professionally done. A lot of the shots are well placed and picked, and the settings, as well as set design is also good. The music is killer good. If it was a different movie it could bring tears to my eyes. The actors also put in an excellent effort, but the complete stupidity of what’s going on is definitely hard to work with. I also like the fact that it’s a movie aimed at white people which doesn’t actually have any white people in it. The only other movie I can think of that did that was Crouching Tiger: Hidden Dragon.
I think most of the bad can be summed up with one name: Mel Gibson, although that may be both pre-emptive and unfair. The story is shithouse. Maybe Mel wasn’t the one who messed it up, but it’s fucked, and Mel’s involved. The direction is also fucked, and again, Mel’s in the firing line. While I couldn’t really complain about the camerawork, I feel it could’ve been done better.
The fighting scenes (which are pretty integral to the movie) are done in a slipshod manner. It seems like a practical issue:
bq. “Well, it looks like none of the guys here know how to fight, so you gotta just move the camera around to get the mayhem across”.
Maybe this wasn’t a camerawork issue, but again, a direction issue. It really irritates me that even in this day and age you can’t get someone in an action movie who can look the part, act, and fight. If you can’t do that, they ain’t worth the 20 mil.
The direction is a mix of cliche and just plain bad. Nothing inventive has been done to tell the story, and a lot of problems that occur in other departments occur probably because the director was too idiotic to come up with a better solution. A lot of the scenes appear superfluous, and although beautiful, you really want better reasons for them to be in the movie. Whilst the initial story does a good job of building an empathy for the characters as well as antagonism towards the... er... antagonists, the ending is corny and unrealistic, and the deaths of the bad guys is both unsatisfying and unsophisticated.
Terrible choices were made with respects to how to shoot certain things. Like Len Wiseman crowing about how Underworld doesn’t use CG in the werewolf design, you can almost hear the stupidity coming from Mel Gibson’s face. Whatever you do, if it looks shit then it’ll destroy the movie. There’s a boar chase scene as well as the Jaguar are completely ridiculous, and it can clearly be seen that they’re stuffed animals. I don’t have a solution, but they make movies, they should have solutions ready. Attacking a stuffed jaguar made the movie positively comical, even if the boar scene could be forgiven.
There’s a bunch of gore in this movie that’s just there for show. I’m all for gore, and the sacrifice scene is great, but sometimes the gore is taken over the top, Mortal Kombat style, and again, it just makes the movie seem more comical rather than realistic.
I think Mel Gibson is stuck in the old Mad Max days, when the rest of the world has moved on, and it really shows in this movie. The sophistication mixed with the dumb action is like oil and water, or cigarette smoke and perfume, and the movie feels odd and nauseating. Don’t watch it.