I presume everyone, including Gibson himself if he has any grasp on reality left, was worried about how the public would receive this film once the drunken anti-Semitic rant Mel Gibson uttered after being arrested for drunk driving was made public. I think that no one has to worry as long as the film is up to the high standards that he set with his previous efforts "Braveheart" and "Passion of the Christ". Unfortunately what director Gibson and the studio now have to worry about is that the film is not his best effort. I went into the film not worried about the fact that the entire film was in Mayan. Hey, "Passion of the Christ" was in the dead language of Aramaic and I loved that film. Any foreign film is usually in a language I do not understand and it makes no difference. What did make a difference was the fact that "Apocalypto" ended up being more like "Die Hard" in a jungle setting rather than an exploration of the people and cultures of the time.
The film is not entirely a disappointment in that the cinematography and acting are quite strong. The film's jungle and Mayan temple scenes are for the most part stunning to look at. The colours are all bright and really make the scenes pop out. Cinematographer Dean Semler's (Dances With Wolves, Mad Max 2) shots are so vivid that they sometimes make you feel as if you are right there beside the characters. The only problem I had with the look of the film was some of the violent scenes. Like many Gibson films this one is filled with many violent and gory scenes but some of them made me laugh quietly as I found them quite phony looking.
The cast is also a strong one which is made up of unknown Native Americans, Native Canadians and Central American actors. Many of whom are acting for the first time. They are authentic and able to convey the emotions of their characters through facial expressions and body language.
The main problem I had with the film was basically the screenplay or story, which was co-written by Mel Gibson (The Passion of the Christ) and Farhad Safinia (first film). I am not sure after watching the film what it even was about. I understood what was going on, but I did not get where Gibson was going with it. If it was supposed to be about the downfall of Mayan society as it got too big and powerful à la Rome or maybe even modern day USA, then why so little about that and so much running through the jungle with a plethora of close calls trying to outwit your pursuers? I didn't get it! Why would you make the first film about the Mayan people to be basically an action adventure tale? Seems a waste! There were also some rather silly scenes in the film like when one of the female characters gives birth underwater in a well. Hunh? Silly! The film is also quite long and not that that is always a problem, but it felt like there were several scenes that went on longer than they had to. Also, without ruining it, the ending made me scratch my head and felt like it did not belong.
Mayan civilization has taken over in South America and it has gotten so big that it now threatens to wipe out many other smaller tribes. The beautiful and fairly peaceful existence these smaller tribes have been enjoying for generations is now threatened by the Mayans. They come into settlements killing those who resist and capturing all of the adults they can. The children are left behind to fend for themselves in the jungle without their parents. This is what happens to the tribe of people that Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood – first film) is a part of. His father, Flint Sky (Morris Bird – has worked on television series previously), is killed before his eyes. Jaguar Paw manages to get his pregnant wife, Seven (Dalia Hernandez – first film) and his son, Turtles Run (Carlos Emilio Baez – first film) hidden down a water well. He, along with his friends Blunted (Jonathan Brewer – first film), Curl Nose (Amilcar Ramirez – first film), Smoke Frog (Israel Contreras Vasquez – first film), and Cocoa Leaf (Israel Rios – first film) are captured by Holcane warriors led by Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujillo – The New World, Black Robe). They are to be sold to the Mayans to be used as sacrifices by the High Priest (Fernando Hernandez Perez – The Fountain) to the gods. Due to a solar eclipse Jaguar Paw and others escape with their lives. Managing to escape from the Holcanes after killing the son of Zero Wolf, Jaguar Paw flees into the jungle. Not about to let the killer of his son escape, Zero Wolf along with the vicious Snake Ink (Rodolfo Palacios – first film) takes his men through the jungle to hunt down Jaguar Paw. Jaguar Paw is running for his life back towards his village and his wife and son.
– Becoming Mayan: Making Apocalypto
-Deleted scene with optional commentary by director Mel Gibson and co-writer Farhad Safinia