Reactions to “Apocalypto”

UPDATED: Some friends of mine over at have just seen Apocalypto, yet another film I couldn’t see due to ice and snow this week.

Here are a few things they’ve said:

Wow. This is the most violent movie I’ve ever seen. People die in some extremely graphic, horrific, unimaginably nasty ways. If you thought The Passion was brutal, well, some of the killings here are even more explicit than the scourging at the pillar sequence. … Visually, it’s admirably detailed and there are some truly powerful scenes. … FWIW, I’m a big fan of both Braveheart and The Passion; I have a high tolerance for violent content, and I appreciated both those movies immensely despite their brutality. This one, though, was extreme even for me.

And then…

It’s not that I think the carnage is unnecessary to the story. But I’m wondering if this story is worth the carnage.

And then…


You know that great American film we’ve been waiting for for the last 5…10 yrs! This could be it.

I strongly suggest trying to set aside everything you know about Mel Gibson before seeing this film.

This is possibly THE Most violent film ever made, it certainly takes violence to a whole new disturbing level. Its often times very crude and disturbing in a nearly unwatchable way….

But with that being said. Its messages are extremely subtle and magnificiently powerful.


More responses:

The violence in Apocaylpto felt like a cheap and manipulative device to up the tension.With the almost constant bloodletting, I was tense and tight throughout the whole movie.


It’s not that I think the carnage is unnecessary to the story. But I’m wondering if this story is worth the carnage.

And then, Peter T. Chattaway:

It’s good to see what Mel’s done with the profits from all those sold-out church-sponsored screenings of The Passion, isn’t it?


Jeffrey Wells writes:

Mel Gibson has a thing — a big thing — about brutality. William Wallace’s climactic disembowling in Braveheart, the dozens upon dozens of terrible blows inflicted upon Jim Caviezel’s Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, and now, in the obviously well made and extremely visceral Apocaylpto, all kinds of gougings, clubbings, belly-guttings, stabbings, disembowelings, animal attacks, ritualistic beheadings and tapir testicle- chewing are served up start to finish. And it’s gotten to be a bit much. Really.

The more I watched Apocalypto the more this opinion sank in, and I just got sick of it after a while. It’s like Gibson and his co-screenwriter Farhad Safinia sat down and focused on creating a story that would heap on every ghastly form of torture, subjugation, mutilation and death known to or imagined by the most malignant Mayan psychopaths of all time. And because it’s mainly a mind-of-Mel film, I didn’t believe in the story or the characters or anything else. I just wanted it to be over. It enabled me, in fact, to see fresh virtues in the movies of Nancy Meyers.

Apocalypto is not schlock. It shows again that Gibson is nothing if not a totally go-for-broke, whole-hog, get-it-right filmmaker. He’s done an admirable job at recreating a rich, exotic, predatory world. The casting, costumes, set design, cinematography, cutting — all of it is of a very high order. But to what end?

Perhaps my favorite line, from Ed Gonzalez at Slant:

Mel Gibson is sick, but his new film profits from his weakness.

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  • Nate

    The violence in Apocalypto is entirely justified, from start to finish. It’s fine if violence troubles anyone–don’t see it. I’m someone, though, who can very easily find violence unwatchable in art–I can get upset too easily. I don’t enjoy watching people suffer, and too often it can feel like the director really wants us to do just that.

    But the violence in Apocalypto is supposed to be awful, and Gibson uses every bit of craft he can summon to make his violence as horrible as possible. It’s not a sadistic fantasy–it’s a man struggling to stare the truths of human existence on earth honestly in the face.

  • Rosemarie


    I don’t like movie violence (though I did find TPOTC deeply moving, but that’s different – brutal scourging is one thing; disembowelings and beheadings quite another!). So I definitely won’t be seeing “Apocalypto”.

    I do have to wonder, though: if “Apocalypto” were made by, say, Quentin Tarantino, would reviewers treat it the same way? Or is it just because Mel Gibson made it that we speculate on his psychological state?

    (Not that such speculations are wrong, mind you. In fact, maybe we should similarly question the mental health of every gory filmmaker from Tarantino to Peckinpah.)

    In Jesu et Maria,

  • Anonymous

    I think the level of violence in Gibson’s films is very interesting to say the least. Especially after seeing The Passion. There’s something psychological going on but I’m not sure if I understand it.

  • Stephen

    Ugh. I was somewhat looking forward to seeing this film, but after reading these comments I’m not sure. I have a high tolerance for violence in film, but sometimes enough is enough…esp. if it takes you out of the film.

  • Ellen Collison

    “Maybe I’m too thin-skinned, but I find violence in film gets in my head and I can’t get rid of it.”

    Yes. This is borne home to me re. TV news – I lived in the D.C. area for many years, and quite watching local news due to the unending focus on homicides and other violent crimes. It became overwhelming, and very oppressive. I’m not sure that *anyone* can – or ought to – be subjected to a diet of this kind of news coverage day after day. It both depresses us and numbs us to the sufferings of others.

    As for Gibson, the gratuitous violence in his films speaks (I think) of deep personal problems. I’m not saying this to judge him – and sadly, can remember interviews with him many years back (around the time he starred in “The Year of Living Dangerously”) where he disavowed violence in movies. he even (IIRC, which I might not) said that he would not star in violent films.

  • Anonymous

    I understand and agree with the feeling of wanting to avoid extreme violence. I believe that Gibson would understand that feeling. Yet, like the Passion, is creating a picture of violence that is palitable better for the viewer than the treachory of true pain? I will not watch Pulp Fiction again but I’m glad I viewed it. I will watch the Passion again (Good Friday tradition) because it helps me to realize the truth about what my mind tends to diminish. Sometimes a painful “more true” expeirence is better than a “tame not as true” one.

  • M. Cruz

    After hearing that this is supposed to be a parallel of the Iraq war, I have no desire to see it.

    I’m so tired of movie makers projecting their own prejudices and hatred onto every movie they make. Even an idea as obscure and original as this has to be made into an opportunity to tell the world the usual ‘Bush lied, people died’ nonsense. I am sick of it.

  • Sara Z.

    Guess I won’t be seeing this. I just can’t deal anymore. I think I hit a wall somewhere around Pulp Fiction and I’ve never been the same…