Friday, December 08, 2006

Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" -- The Reviews

Despite Variety's early rave, the mixed review by The Hollywood Reporter was far more in tune with the general response. Looking at critics all over the country, most of them hate the film and a surprising number of them question Gibson's sanity. In short, the NYT article that breathlessly wondered what Oscar voters would do when confronted with such an obvious Oscar movie like "Apocalypto" was absurdly off target: "Apocalypto" is being panned almost across the board. This bloodfest doesn't stand a chance of being an Oscar hopeful, except maybe for minor technical awards. In one of the kinder reviews, the godless NYT refuses to dismiss the film or Gibson, but does say this: "The brutality in “Apocalypto” is so relentless and extreme that it sometimes moves beyond horror into a kind of grotesque comedy, but to dismiss it as excessive or gratuitous would be to underestimate Mr. Gibson’s seriousness." The NY Post is less subtle: "If anyone still has any doubts that Mad Mel Gibson is off his rocker, you might want to check out his well-made but gratuitously violent "Apocalypto" - which makes "The Passion of the Christ" look like a church picnic." They also call it a "nutso vanity project" and say Gibson has "a diseased mind who clearly gets off on depicting human suffering in the most graphic ways [imaginable], going back to "Braveheart." The NY Daily News says: "Mel Gibson is sicker than we thought. As his new film "Apocalypto" makes clear, he's not just a drinker and a raving anti-Semite, but a man with a grotesque appetite for human suffering and an enormous talent for exploiting it." The LA Times says: "The reality of "Apocalypto" is that this film is in fact Exhibit A of the rot from within that Gibson is worried about. If our society is in moral peril, the amount of stomach-turning violence that we think is just fine to put on screen is by any sane measure a major aspect of that decline. Mel, no one in your entourage is going to tell you this, but you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. A big part." The San Francisco Chronicle says: "It would be inappropriate and probably inaccurate for any critic to pronounce on the mental health of a filmmaker based on his movie. Yet no description of "Apocalypto" can even begin, much less be complete, without noting -- say, in a colloquial, nonclinical, anecdotal sort of way -- that it seems like something made by a crazy person." Newsweek (with the best headline: Mel's Jungle Boogie) says: "The harder "Apocalypto" works to shock and excite you, the less shocked and excited you become, until you may find yourself beset by the urge to giggle. Some may find the overkill exploitative, but there's nothing cynical about Gibson's obsession with blood and pain. The pathology is genuine." Time is vaguer but also negative, calling Gibson as talented but vacuous as DW Griffiths (Hollywood's most famous racist) and Cecil B DeMille. USA Today is also strongly negative, saying: "Perhaps Gibson is trying to shock us into absorbing the torment and severity of man's inhumanity to man. The tragedy is that the film has the opposite effect: As we are bombarded by savagery, we become inured to it." I did find positive reviews in Florida's Sun-Sentinel and -- of course -- a Texas newspaper, the Houston Chronicle. But someone could make a great mock ad campaign pulling out these quotes.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Michael...Here is a view from the "cheap seats..."
My darling husband and I went see Apocalypto in Ventura California for the 4:20 showing today. My husband said it was one of the best movies he has seen (this coming from a former Test Pilot and F-16 Fighter Pilot). He said it was a "wild ride." I loved the characters, he loved the action. The theater was full for our showing! There was a line of people to take our place! People applauded during and after the show! Truthfully, I spent a lot of time holding onto my husband (just like I do when I sit next to him on a fast ride at Disneyland) scared to see the results of fight scenes...It actually ended up being in a way, a romantic to cuddle in the theater...and to celebrate what family means when the end of the film came! Encore Gibson Family...There is "soul" weaved within the film through the faces that convey a story that resonates to all who love and have suffered for that love.

Michael in New York said...

Hey Julie,

I didn't see your comment until after posting my own thoughts on the film and we both saw it as a "ride." The movie was surprisingly popular as a date flick and women really liked it. (That had to be the most difficult delivery of a baby in history.) The audience I saw it with also gave brief applause at the end (and whenever the hero knocked off one of the bad guys). I did find the sporadic gore oddly explicit -- seeing the panther latch onto someone's face was violent and shocking enough but did we have to see the face then torn off? I guess that was a good time for you to clutch your husband's arm and look away. It'll be interesting to see how the film does over the long haul but I bet word of mouth will be pretty good. Thanks for commenting.