Thursday, January 24, 2008

Review: Apocalypto

Not one to rush into things, I finally watched Mel Gibson's slightly a-historical movie of Mayan imperial collapse, Apocalypto, a gory but amazing adventure story.

My father was a big fan of historian Will Durant, so I got the impact of the Durant epigram about the fall of empires at the beginning.

I know that a few blowhard Chicano Studies types complained about the movie, but face it, all those things such as slave raids and the sacrifice of prisoners to the gods were happening, there and of course in Tenochtitlan.

Ever since I took a graduate seminar in Mesoamerican religion with DavĂ­d Carrasco, I have been suspicious of cultures with large, astronomically aligned buildings. They always seem to reflect a society where the king is the Son of Heaven and the Few rule the Many with a heavy hand.

I suspect that Stonehenge might have been produced by a Neolithic version of that cultural template too, for all that Pagans revere the place.

Or you might say that polytheism + imperialism = imperialism.

Along with prisoners of war, the Maya apparently favored sacrificing boys.

Gibson being Gibson, the movie's final message apparently is, "The world is a corrupt and violent place, so you are better off dying as a Catholic." Extra ecclesiam nulla salus and all that.

Labels: , ,


Blogger Cosette said...

I went to an advance screening of this film because a good friend of mine is a Mayan archaeologist. She called it pornography and her review appears in Archeology Magazine at

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

As a subscriber to Archaeology I saw that review. All I can say is that it represents a minority viewpoint, and I think that the word "pornography" is poorly chosen.

If it was too gory for her, she should just say so.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Cosette said...

I can't speak for her, of course, but I don't think it was about the gore. She and others in her department (we all went together) felt it was a very poor representation of Mayan people. My impression is that it's a minority viewpoint among movie goers, but perhaps not people in that academic field. As someone who knows next to nothing about Maya culture, I thought the movie was great. At one conference she attended earlier this year, every paper on the film was condemning but one, the one from the consultant on the movie.

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

Ah, the noble Maya. :-)

Unfortunately for that viewpoint, their own writings, no deciphered, speak of constant war and the glorification of kings.

No different from the Hittites, the Assyrians, etc.

10:20 PM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

Sorry, I meant "now deciphered."

Drat this trendy new keyboard.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Cosette said...

Come on, don't put words in my mouth. One of Dr. Ardren's special interests is child sacrifice. I don't think anyone is kidding themselves here about the brutal violence Maya people practiced upon one another.

I think one of the problems here lies in people's expectations of how Hollywood will present a particular subject.

And you may have a bit of trouble with that swanky new keyboard, but boy are you fast!

10:39 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home