I knew going in it was a Mel Gibson production about the Mayans and that the dialog was in Mayan with subtitles. So I more or less expected a blood-soaked docudrama. What I got was a surprisingly good movie.
It took very little time for the subtitles and the “primitive” settings, under the power of the story, to transform into normality. The people and families of the village were like people and families everywhere – loving, quarrelsome, hard-working, their days filled with personality conflicts, moments of peace, and the teasing of children. But the disasters to come, as warned of in the title, were foretold in a subtle way by an old storyteller relating ancient tribal parables of the one creature, Man, who is never satisfied. I found the scene strangely moving.
The story is an adventure of capture and strange lands, of horror and a capricious mercy, of escape and pursuit, of loss and reunion. Good stuff. Go see it. From here, just a few of my own strange observations. May or may not include spoilers, don’t know yet. I’m just going to assume you’ve either seen it or don’t mind.
One wee detail really got to me. Got to me so much I hit the pause button and leapt out of my chair to wave my arms in front of my family and point it out. Our hero had been delivered at the last instant from the infamous Mayan sacrifice by a total solar eclipse. No, that’s not very original, but so what. Here’s the thing. Late that night, we see his wife and child, back home, awaiting his return, in the leaf-dappled shadow of a full moon.
Yeah. Guess I wasn’t supposed to notice.
I loved the inventive variety of costume and body-decoration the producers put the Mayan characters into, especially those in the great city, from the priests to the laborers. All classes were represented, all of them believable because all of them seemed to belong. Loved it.
We saw that the Mayans were suffering from failed crops and the appearance of having somehow poisoned their own environment, and were delving deeper and deeper into their peculiar depravity, feeding the blood-lust of their great god Kukulkan, to correct it. Of course that wouldn’t work, but I’m not sure what the lesson was supposed to be (if any). How did this essentially stone-age culture poison their environment? Dug too deep for building blocks and released some subterranean deposit of malodorous minerals? Tossed too many rotting human bodies into the water supply? This and the plaintive prayer of one of the captured village women to a favorite goddess, “Mother of Mercy” among other names, coupled with Mel Gibson’s well-known conservative Catholicism, led me to suppose there was some deeply Catholic allegory being presented here that I, at least, was doomed to miss.
Which makes the scene towards the end of a boatload of grim-faced men bearing down on the strand with crosses and swords and Bibles in hand rather more unsettling. Meant to be, of course.
And of course, as Jaguar Paw turned the party of hunters pursuing him into a hapless crew of city boys he was in turn pursuing, I was unable to keep from shouting, “It’s Rambo of the Jungle!”
Which reminds me, the leader of that party was ba-a-ad. He had the face and manner of a warrior, a man, a loving father and a true and pitiless professional. His outfit was the best. If a mountain lion ever comes around here and I kill it with my bare hands and boil the flesh off the bones, I’m thinking Halloween costume contests, man.
For all its Gibsonesque manly manliness, I really enjoyed this film. The drums that beat incessantly while people ran and ran and ran through the forest kept beating in my head for hours afterward. In fact I took them with me on my next run and while in the park bagged a disc golfer with a poisoned dart.