“Dramatically, the relentless pileup of atrocities [in Mel Gibson‘s Apocalypto] becomes self-defeating,” Newsweek‘s David Ansen writes in this week’s issue. “At a certain point — was it the spear that went from the back of a running man’s head through his mouth? The jaguar tearing another man’s face to shreds? The snakes? The hornets? The hundreds of rotting corpses in the ravine? — you become inured. Some may find the overkill exploitative, but there’s nothing cynical about Gibson’s obsession with blood and pain. The pathology is genuine.
“But for all the anthropological research that went into the movie, what is Apocalypto trying to say? According to the production notes, Gibson wants us to contemplate the parallels between the decadence of the Mayan empire on its last legs and our contemporary, spiritually and environmentally ravaged world. You could have fooled me. The question on my mind as I contemplated Apocalypto‘s lurid panoramas of bleeding, violated flesh had nothing to do with politics: why does Gibson get so turned on by this stuff?”