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Apocalypto

posted by awelborn

TIME on the set:

Still, he likes to confound expectations–he wears a cross containing relics of martyred saints, but he can swear like a Quentin Tarantino character–and those who peg him as a reactionary may be surprised to learn that his new film sounds warnings straight out of liberal Hollywood’s bible. Apocalypto, which Gibson loosely translates from the Greek as "a new beginning," was inspired in large part by his work with the Mirador Basin Project, an effort to preserve a large swath of the Guatemalan rain forest and its Maya ruins. Gibson and his rookie cowriter on Apocalypto, Farhad Safinia, were captivated by the ancient Maya, one of the hemisphere’s first great civilizations, which reached its zenith about A.D. 600 in southern Mexico and northern Guatemala. The two began poring over Maya myths of creation and destruction, including the Popol Vuh, and research suggesting that ecological abuse and war-mongering were major contributors to the Maya’s sudden collapse, some 500 years before Europeans arrived in the Americas.

Those apocalyptic strains haunt Apocalypto, which takes place in an opulent but decaying Maya kingdom, whose leaders insist that if the gods are not appeased by more temples and human sacrifices, the crops will die. But the writers hope that the larger themes of decline will be a wake-up call. "The parallels between the environmental imbalance and corruption of values that doomed the Maya and what’s happening to our own civilization are eerie," says Safinia. Gibson, who insists ideology matters less to him than stories of "penitential hardship" like his Oscar-winning Braveheart, puts it more bluntly: "The fearmongering we depict in this film reminds me a little of President Bush and his guys."



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Veronica

posted March 19, 2006 at 11:11 pm


“The fearmongering we depict in this film reminds me a little of President Bush and his guys.”
Oh boy, I can already foresee the reactions of some of the people in this blog accusing Mel of (insert accussation of your choice in here).
As for me, I can hardly wait to see the movie, it certainly looks extremely interesting!



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Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.

posted March 20, 2006 at 1:00 am


“… ecological abuse and war-mongering were major contributors to the Maya’s sudden collapse, some 500 years before Europeans arrived in the Americas.”
This counters the neo-myth of aboriginal Americans as ecologically benign nobles in harmony with Mother Earth.
The movie “Dances with Wolves” depicted the Lakota friends of Kostner’s character with sympathy, while the Pawnee attackers appear malevolent. Despite this romantic depiction of the Lakota, the historical fact is that the Lakota were invaders of Pawnee lands. This movie also shows the Lakota walking mournfully through a prairie littered with the spoiling carcasses of buffalo left by white hunters who took only the tongues and the hides. The movie (and the common myth today) is that aboriginal Americans killed only what they could use and wasted nothing. The fact is that a buffalo hunt aimed at killing as many buffalo as possible–especially the kind of hunt that drove the herd over a cliff. The people would then take what they needed, and, with limited transport and storage abilities, carried off only the best of the meat, leaving the “seconds” and everything else behind.
I see Mel Gibson’s movie as offering, among other things, a rebuttal to the myth of the Native American as “in-harmony-with-nature ecological saint.”



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Noah Nehm

posted March 20, 2006 at 1:21 am


I know that this thought is terribly cynical, but could MG be slightly misdirecting the press in talking about a minor theme in the movie (environmental degradation) instead of emphasizing the major theme (how a society is corrupted once it embraces a culture of death) in order to keep the elite movie reviewers from talking down the movie prematurely? I cannot think that a movie industry that tends to lionize such things as abortion, violent retribution, fornication, and homosexuality to be terribly happy with a movie that connects such things with societal decay.



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Karen LH

posted March 20, 2006 at 6:22 am


“[T]hose who peg him as a reactionary may be surprised to learn that his new film sounds warnings straight out of liberal Hollywood’s bible.”
He sounds like another crunchy con.



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Maureen

posted March 20, 2006 at 7:08 am


Re: “ecologically benign” Native Americans and Lakota invaders
There’s a new book out about the Six Nations (the Iroquois — close kin to the Lakota), and the reviewer kept talking about how tragic the ending of this society was. Then he mentioned how vast the area needed to sustain Six Nations on a hunting lifestyle.
He didn’t mention that, to sustain their trade in pelts, the Six Nations exterminated one tribe with genocidal thoroughness (the Erie), and drove out several states’ worth of tribes. What’s now Ohio and Kentucky were empty for almost a century, because the Shawnee and other tribes knew they’d be killed if they came back home. They were even hunted and harried by Six Nations raiding parties in their refugee homes in areas which now are Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and so forth. Even the Shawnee who fled to Georgia had their troubles. Only when the Six Nations were weakened by conflict with the colonists did the Shawnee and other tribes get to come back home.



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Sandra Miesel

posted March 20, 2006 at 8:59 am


Archaeologists now say that the Maya fell because of war and ecological degradation. This overturns the early 20th C dogma–propagated by the Smithsonian–that they were peaceful starwatchers who used their cities as cermonial centers only and not as residences. Subsequent excavations and the ability to read Maya inscriptions put paid to that, except in popular mythologizing about pre-Columbian Edens.
Mel is a master manipulator. Give him credit for that. And APOCALYPTO (which doesn’t mean “new beginning”!)has cost so little to make, he can’t help but earn a profit.



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mulopwepaul

posted March 20, 2006 at 10:16 am


The Great Beaver War (honest, that’s what it’s called) is one of the great untaught stories of North American history.
It is untaught first of all because it involves the English, Dutch and French only as bit players who were manipulated by the Hurons, Iroquois and other tribes to serve their own purposes; but second of all because it completely obliterates the noble savage myth of American Indians, which is a totemic stereotype treasured by all progressive types who reject the notion of original sin.
The peaceful, stargazing Maya myth is part and parcel of that same wishful thinking.
PVO



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derringdo

posted March 20, 2006 at 10:20 am


Sandra: the Rousseau-style myth is still the version most of the public is familiar w/, and I’m not gonna say “no” to a little countermythologizing on that point. And a whole subgenre of historical movies shot in “period” languages, however guesstimated, with an according emphasis on visual story-telling and interesting faces/character actors over stars is a vastly amusing idea. If Mad Mel wants to try to bring either of those things about…it’s absolutely ok by me.



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Tony A

posted March 20, 2006 at 11:38 am


“The fearmongering we depict in this film reminds me a little of President Bush and his guys.”
I’m SOOO looking forward to this film!



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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted March 20, 2006 at 12:48 pm


I couldn’t help but notice in one of the news stories on the movie which mentioned that Gibson was a Catholic–the writer brought up the question why–since he does so many bloody movies–hasn’t he done the Spanish Inquisition.
Leave it to liberals to find a way to zing Catholics or the Church in just about any setting. One might ask why the liberal billionaire gaggle-horde in Hollywood hasn’t done any history movies on all the various bloodlettings of Left-wing countries from Stalin’s Gulags and mass starvation of the Ukraine to Mao’s Great Leap Forward to Castro’s persecution of intellectuals and writers and the like. There are plenty of dramatic and colorful and interesting and hertoic stories from those Left-inspired far more current horror shows. The 0nly one I can remember is the one on Cambodia’s Communist slaughters. I believe it was called “The Killing Fields.” It was a success but did not stimulate Hollywood to pay more attention to Leftis transgressions.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted March 20, 2006 at 2:06 pm


Mr. Gibson made a great movie in the Passion. He is also quite capable of being involved in turkeys as his career amply demonstrates. This latest film will make a profit, but I suspect a fair amount of the audience may come out scratching their heads and wondering “What the heck was that?”. As for the slap at Bush, Gibson has never been a conservative. He is an eclectic eccentric when it comes to his beliefs, just like his beloved father, although he is not quite, yet, the kook that his dad is.



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Sandra Miesel

posted March 20, 2006 at 2:18 pm


To prep for APOCALYPTO, read THE BLOOD OF KINGS by Linda Schele and Mary Ellen Miller. Also A FOREST OF KINGS by Schele and David Freidel.
Maya practices will provide Mel with plenty of opportunities for gore, cute bits about using stingray spines to draw blood from tongue, ears, and genitals. Are we having fun yet?



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derringdo

posted March 20, 2006 at 2:50 pm


Sandra: thanks for the headsup, sounds like my kind of books. As to whether we’re having fun, ask me again in August when the bloody (pun intended) thing comes out.
Donald: Interesting, I always had him pegged as your standard conspiracy-minded paleocon loon (not that all “paleocons” are loons, but I think you know the type I mean). His interest in funding Farenheit 9/11 for the “House of Saud” angle and his swipes at the Bush Administration are consistent with that.
PS: The “Apocalypse Imminent” nonsense inherent in taking the Mayan cyclical calendar seriously strikes me as potentially (depending on whether he plays it up in the movie and the publicity) alot more pernicious than any icky-squicky violence targetted at Ebil Desensitized Gen-Xers.



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