Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Apocalypto, the Wrath of Mel

Mel Gibson is hard at work on his next project. CNN provides a few interesting details:

Gibson is due to begin shooting the film, titled "Apocalypto," on location in Mexico in October and is aiming for a summer 2006 release, spokesman Alan Nierob said on Monday.

As with "Passion," Gibson will direct and produce the Mayan-language film from his own script through his own company, Icon Productions, and he will not appear in the movie.

The film's cast will consist of unknown performers native to the region of Mexico where the film is being shot, Nierob said. Few others details about Gibson's project were revealed.

"He lets his work speak for itself," Nierob said.

The story, which Gibson began writing nine months ago, is described as a "unique adventure" set 500 years in the past. Nierob said the title, "Apocalypto," was taken from the Greek word for an unveiling or new beginning.

OK, so first off we have yet another film done in an archaic language. That's cool with me. The whole Aramaic thing with the last film didn't bother me as it did some others at the time. I respected it and respected him for having the balls to do it.

Then we have the title and plot description. The details are thin, but enough can be construed from what is given. "500 years in the past", according to this Mayan timeline, puts us around the Spanish conquest led by Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado. As the timeline phrases it, "What force does not accomplish, disease does. Smallpox, measles, influenza, and other introduced diseases kill about 90 percent of the Maya within a century".

So, we have a very powerful and fervent Catholic tackling a period in history where some very powerful and fervent Catholics nearly decimate a civilization. What happened, Mel? Did another studio have a Spanish Inquisition film already in production?

Now, Mel is nothing if not shrewd. The Passion proved that. He's not about to piss off all those culturally conservative Christians who now admire him by making some PC film that paints European Catholics in a poor light. Or would he?

It all depends on how he approaches the subject matter. As it is mentioned in the article, "Apocalypto" (which is close enough to a generic LaHaye title to get some pulses racing in the heartland) translates into "a new beginning". That probably is the key to how he looks upon the film as a whole. He'll pull no punches in terms of showcasing brutality (we all know by now that he's capable of this), but he will also probably emphasize how it was all for a greater good in the transformation of South America into a bastion of Catholicism.

(Goofy aside: Somebody in Hollywood should make a post-WWIII film starring Harry Belafonte and call it Apocalypso!)

So what's my guess for the plot? The Spanish will indeed be bad guys, but it will be portrayed as a force of their political culture more than their religion. The Mayans will indeed be good guys, and they will embrace Catholicism while simultaneously resisting the brutality of the Spanish. They will see this new faith as a step up from their own (We'll see at least one Mayan human sacrifice during the course of the film) and a step towards knowing the true face of God.

Now, let's think about this plot in more general terms: A country driven by zealous belief in their God invades and occupies a foreign land. They claim it is for the natives' own good as they seek to change their backward culture for the better. Despite the thousands upon thousands of deaths that result, there is a hope that somewhere down the road a new nation will emerge. Ideally, this nation will change those around it so that the entire region is rebuilding their society upon the foundations of this new faith that was brought to them.

Yep. Mel's one shrewd guy.

(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)

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