I was not able to get to theaters when Apocalypto was originally released, so I have been looking forward to seeing it as soon as it is available on DVD. That day has come. I'll give you two pieces of background info. First, I love Braveheart, it's one of my favorite movies ever, I think every single aspect of the movie is perfection. Secondly, I never saw The Passion of the Christ.
What I loved The direction and cinematography is amazing. It achieves its task of convincing the audience that Gibson and crew simply found some Mayans and gave them a script and began shooting in ancient Mexico. It shows you the grandeur of the Mayan cities and the intricacies of each character, but does not get wrapped up in stroking it's own accomplishments. Speaking of which, you gotta watch the Becoming Mayan the making-of feature in the Bonus section. In it, we learn , Mel insisted that they built the city temples at full scale, no blue-screen or other digital effects were used, and it was worth it. Every single character has a unique tattoo and/or body modification that looks very convincing. Everything from the clothing to the language (that nobody on the planet speaks anymore) being used exclusively in the filmwas carefully researched, and executed (pardon the pun) to really allow the viewer to get immersed in the story without being distracted by the filmmakers' "seams."
What I didn't like Honestly, I loved this film, I'm ready to watch it again very soon. Two minor complaints. I appreciate Mel going the distance and filming in the Yucatan tongue for added authenticity, however the film is so visually stunning, I couldn't fully soak it in when reading the subtitles. There are large parts of the movie that have no dialogue, so you can get fully wrapped up in the story, but I wish Mel had gone the Hunt for Red October route and smoothly transitioned into English after the audience has time to recognize that the characters aren't actually speaking English. I thought it interrupted the story telling a little bit. Is it enough to not watch the movie? Absolutely not. I love Amelie, and not speaking French, it's necessary, but nobody speaks Yucatan. Secondly, the film runs a little long. It doesn't follow the traditional Hollywood story arc, which is fine by me, there is absolutely nothing clichéd about this film at all. But the first half of the movie spends a lot of time establishing... everything. Because it was so beautiful, and I wanted to study every scene, I didn't mind as much, but it does get hard on the rump after awhile. I think this may have been more successful in theaters if it was trimmed down a bit, and then this cut be made available as the Director's Cut on DVD. Just my two cents.
Watching the documentary and listening to a bit of the commentary with Mel, I could not get over how meticulous they were in their pursuit of authenticity. People did their own stunts, no extreme digital effects were used, it's very well made. It's impressive after you hear how much preparation really went into it, and I wish it was a bit more successful at the box office. The one deleted scene does not bring very much to the experience, probably because Mel did not seem to cut very much.
There is a lot of violence. Somebody is being killed or sacrificed almost the entire movie. Very little of the story is "fair." The bad guy doesn't get it in the end, people are brutilized, but it's easy to believe that this culture still exists and was not created. I really liked this movie. It's not going to replace Braveheart, but its a great movie.
Beginning May 22nd, you can purchase this DVD from Amazon.com.