this film probably would have done a lot better without mel gibson's name attached to it. and certainly would have done better had he not spewed a racist drunken rant months before its release.
attach gibson's name to it and it raises questions about what he's trying to say with it. add his racist rant and accusations that his other films might have racist meaning and you'll view the film through that prism.
i hesitated to see the film at all. any film based on pre-columbian culture is dipping into the history of speculation. it is an unfortunate "pre-history". unfortunate because their history was destroyed by christian colonialism. those are heavy weights to bear.
how did gibson fair with the subject: mixed at best.
the problem with apocalypto is that it is conventionally a standard action film. given gibson's lust for blood and gore, this is nothing unusual. yet using a backdrop of a real culture leads to questions about its accuracy. in the end you'll either like the film for its exciting drama laden violent action flick, or hate it because it misleads the uninformed to believe this is representative of an actual culture.
i both know a good amount about the culture yet expected nothing accurate of the film nor that it was representative of the peoples. i viewed the culture here simply as a backdrop. a collection of ideas to give an exotic sense to work a dramatic story out of. in the same way we could look at indiana jones as laughably inaccurate, apocalypto is not accurate but perhaps misleading in its many accurate elements.
the story follows a young man who sees his peaceful life destroyed by a new and violent tribe taking power. the new tribe seeks slaves for their constructions and for sacrifice. (both of which are at the heart of debate over accuracy) they find the young mans tribe destroy everything and take any living adult as slaves. along the way back a little diseased girl spouts a prophesy which once they arrive at the invaders city begins to come true. as the young man is about to be sacrificed, a solar eclipse blocks out the sun. his captor is told to "dispose of them", wherein they proceed to use the captures as target practice. this sets off the escape of the young man and much of the rest of the film follows his constant pursuit by this group of vicious hunters.
there is more to the story, of course. but mostly its an excuse to create a bloody violent chase scene. gibson at his best. for pure entertainment value.
if you want this to be accurate, you're barking up the wrong tree. there is no reason to believe it is. and although i would agree that this may give viewers who don't know better the wrong impression, you could also argue that it could get more people interest in what the true culture like.
the extras on the dvd is a "making of" where they go to lengths to explain the amount of detail that was put into making the film seem real. there is a surprising amount of detail lavished on the film. huge amounts of extras, massive amounts of makeup and wardrobe, cities of set pieces, weavings, paintings, sculptures. a lot of time and effort went into the film and it may be somewhat sad that it is not, after all that, an accurate account. thats not the intent, though. get over it. watch it for the drama, leave the historical to others to show us.
a good movie, entertaining and lush.