Published at: Oct. 4, 2006, 11:38 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
You know, I absolutely hate that I can’t talk about this film without talking about the man. Even now people are skipping whatever it is I have to say about this film so they can proclaim their ardent opinion that Mel will never see another dime of their money. Or that he should die in a fire. Or whatever. And frankly, I could give a rats ass about all that. Who he is and what he believes only affects me if I ever have any kind of dealings with the guy. And come on, Mel's never gonna call up and say "Hey, Wyrm. Why don't you come over and we'll have a beer and watch the game." The likelihood of that happening is about the same as Keira Knightley calling up to offer me that blowjob I so richly deserve. Ain’t gonna fucking happen. So all I have to truly judge him by is the films he has to share with me. And as a filmmaker, the guy is incredible.
One of the most fearless filmmakers working today, Gibson makes stunning historical epics that appeal to large audiences while making very risky decisions that many have felt would spell doom for his career. Everyone scoffed and laughed when he had to take $30 million of his own money to make the story of Christ in a dead language. I mean, really? Who the hell would actually watch that? Well, pretty much everybody. And while many people didn’t like it, it resonated with Christians of all faiths and sects. I for one was incredibly moved by it, and as a lifelong Christian I felt that not only did it truly drive home the story of Christ’s sacrifice, but it really did a great job of boiling down the most important of Christ’s teachings into one, definitive message.
As Christians, we were accustomed to every version of Christ being that of a bearded guy with glowing white robes, shot through a hazy Olin Mills focus, that spoke like Mr. Rogers. But Gibson’s version was very down to earth, very authentic feeling and really gave you the impression of Christ’s human frailty. It was risky, even by Christian standards, but it worked – and there are a great many people who feel it is one of the finest films ever made. And yes, I freely admit that I am one of those people.
So when it was announced that Gibson was doing another film, I didn’t care what it was about. I was simply ready to be one of the first in line to see it. And when it was announced that it was what we were to be seeing at the special screening last Saturday night, you bet your ass I was ready for it. And man oh man, was I glad I was.
Apocalypto is amazing. Even in its unfinished form it is easily one of the best films of the year, if not the very best. Once again Gibson sets out to put you in another place and time, one which at first seems totally alien – only to brilliantly and quickly endear you to the people you’re following. Within the first 20 minutes of the film you absolutely identify with the tribesman and find quite a bit in common with them. And just as you are completely comfortable and at home with them, bad shit happens. And you feel it.
From that point on the film is an emotional vice, as you watch the village you’ve fallen in love with ravaged and put through the wringer. And once the emotion has reached its crescendo, one man escapes and the last half of the film is a brutal, bloody chase film through the jungles of Mexico. And it’s pretty fucking amazing. Tense action sequences involving guerilla warfare, dangerous locales and plenty of improvised weapons. Easily as rough and bloody as Braveheart, this film doesn’t pull a single punch. The action hurts in the exact same way – never glorified and always illustrating the true horrors of war.
Even projected digitally from their work edit, the cinematography showed through as beautiful and sweeping. I have no doubt in my mind that after color correction and a return to 35 that this is going to be one of the most magnificent looking films of the year. And the performances Gibson got out of an almost entirely novice cast is unbelievable. There is nothing about their work that says first time. Perhaps it’s simply the language barrier (which Gibson is smart enough to keep the dialog to a minimum) but even their physical performances are perfect and effecting.
But as has been mentioned before, the film drags ever so slightly in the middle – although I’m not certain where it needs to be trimmed to speed it up, as everything that occurs at the drag is pretty essential stuff. It’s just slower than the rest of the film. And there’s one shot towards the end of the film that I hope to god goes. Everything else around it works like a charm, but that one single shot seems so goofy and comical that it takes you out of the film for a moment. It’s something that can be worked around and I’m hoping finds its way to the cutting room floor in a hurry. After the screening I brought it up and everyone groaned, seemingly having forgotten it but agreeing that it just didn’t belong. It’s not a shot that will kill the film for everyone, but it is one that will be joked about for quite some time.
I am dying to see this cleaned up and in its final form. Forsaking the usual classical score for a tribal only soundtrack has me chomping at the bit just to hear it – and I simply cannot wait to see the digital work on the Mayan cities during the eclipse (that’s those gorgeous shots we’ve all seen of the Priest standing atop the pyramid at what looks like night.) But I’ve seen many a work print in my life, and none has truly impressed me to the level this did. Everything seems to be coming together into what could be the single greatest movie of the year.
And yeah, sure Mel’s gonna get fucked at the Oscars this year. Like that’s new. He’s got his Oscar. This film is gonna be a critical darling for those who look at the film instead of the man behind it, and it’s gonna be one that geeks fall all over themselves over. I mean, it’s a Mayan adventure film, a chase movie. But one that focuses more on story and emotion than it does on cheap thrills. If there’s a better movie coming out this year, then I’m in fucking heaven, and you’ll hear no complaints outta me.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. I know I will.