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DVD Talk review of 'Mel Gibson's Apocalypto' (Blu-ray)

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DVD Talk review of 'Mel Gibson's Apocalypto' (Blu-ray)

Old 05-29-07, 01:08 AM
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DVD Talk review of 'Mel Gibson's Apocalypto'

I read Daniel Hirshleifer's DVD review of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto at http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=28311 and...

I thought it was one of the worst reviews I have ever read - I HATED his review of Apocalypto...not really - but it certainly leaves something to be desired. While his comparison of the Passion makes sense - it dominates the film - and the film doesnt stand a chance. 0 stars - give me a break - the cinematography, the sets, the art production - the NON CGI world with real extras that is created - the sense of forward momentum - the sense of peril - all of these facets of the film are top notch whether Daniel Hirshleifer hated the experience of the film - there is a lush beauty to this film that is undeniable.

I have had extremely adverse reactions to films as well - but I work hard to look at the work itself - not the man behind it and his correlative films.

Please explain how this film is a xenophobic film? How does it portray or engender a fear of other cultures? It seemed like a very simple story about survival and the death of naturalism as the machine of civilization and colonialism slowly stretched its grubby hands out to feed.

I felt the violence was totally in place in this film - where as I felt like the Passion was totally sadistic. The Passion was far more obsessed and self-conscious of its own gore - it was like a zombie movie - this felt like it put the gore to a purpose - the gore felt organic and simply part of the cinescape of the films experience as one mans village culture is wiped out, as civilation pushes the Mayan culture in this moment of time to extreme levels of sacrifice, and as one man tries to survive.

Honestly my only real feelings of detraction about this film was the sense that there was possibly some animal cruelty - I hope not:
http://www.americanhumane.org/site/PageServer?pagename=nr_news_releases_oscar_2007
Old 05-29-07, 01:36 AM
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I wondered just how long it would take for my review to spark a discussion, and you were right on cue!

Originally Posted by mr jelly
While his comparison of the Passion makes sense - it dominates the film - and the film doesnt stand a chance.
Two things to note:

1. I am not a huge fan of the Passion. I can respect what Gibson did, but my actual reaction to the movie was mixed. However, I have no doubt that Gibson created something that meant a lot to him personally.

2. The reason for such a close comparison to Passion is because Gibson made it painfully obvious that this was a companion piece to Passion by reusing so many elements.

Originally Posted by mr jelly
0 stars - give me a break - the cinematography, the sets, the art production - the NON CGI world with real extras that is created - the sense of forward momentum - the sense of peril - all of these facets of the film are top notch whether Daniel Hirshleifer hated the experience of the film - there is a lush beauty to this film that is undeniable.
If I want lush beauty, I'll watch Baraka or one of my Discovery Channel HD planet earth discs. In a narrative film, things like cinematography and sets are there to enhance the story. If you're watching a movie about a man pooping in excruciating detail, but it's beautifully shot outdoors in a jungle, does that make the movie better? No. Production value is easy to get if you pump enough money into something. If I judged things by production value, 90% of the movies I reviewed would get at least 2 stars just for having something show up on the celluloid. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, I wouldn't downgrade a movie for low production value if the story's great and it entertained me.

Also, I felt no sense of peril because I didn't care at all about Jaguar Paw or any of his people. I felt no sense of forward momentum, because the movie was so bad that every moment felt like an hour.

Originally Posted by mr jelly
I have had extremely adverse reactions to films as well - but I work hard to look at the work itself - not the man behind it and his correlative films.
Right on the cover of the case, it says "Mel Gibson's Apocalypto". The man does not want us to disassociate him from the work. He plasters his name all over it. The thing is, even if I took out everything about Mel Gibson and Passion, many of the reasons I listed for disliking the film would still be enough to warrant the rating I gave it.

Originally Posted by mr jelly
Please explain how this film is a xenophobic film? How does it portray or engender a fear of other cultures? It seemed like a very simple story about survival and the death of naturalism as the machine of civilization and colonialism slowly stretched its grubby hands out to feed.
It seemed to engender a fear of the Mayan civilization, that's for sure.


Originally Posted by mr jelly
I felt the violence was totally in place in this film - where as I felt like the Passion was totally sadistic. The Passion was far more obsessed and self-conscious of its own gore - it was like a zombie movie - this felt like it put the gore to a purpose - the gore felt organic and simply part of the cinescape of the films experience as one mans village culture is wiped out, as civilation pushes the Mayan culture in this moment of time to extreme levels of sacrifice, and as one man tries to survive.
I explained my reasons for feeling the gore in Passion was justified, and the gore in Apocalypto was not. Personally, I'm a gore hound, I love gore. Just about the only thing I liked about the Passion on a personal level was the gore. But the gore did not add anything to this film. Imagine how much more effective it would have been when
Spoiler:
Jaguar Paw's father gets killed if, instead of showing his throat getting cut, they cut to the killer's face, and he's got this sickening grin, and you just hear the sound of his throat being cut, then cut back to an extreme close up of the dad's face, who is trying to speak but can't make a sound because his vocal cords have been severed, and then to Jaguar Paw's reaction shot.
I think that would have been far more effective and would have left a greater impression on the audience.

Originally Posted by mr jelly
Honestly my only real feelings of detraction about this film was the sense that there was possibly some animal cruelty - I hope not:
http://www.americanhumane.org/site/P...ses_oscar_2007
I certainly hope there wasn't any animal cruelty. This movie is bad enough without adding that level of shame to it.

By the way, thanks for starting up the thread! I really would like to get a variety of opinions about this film. It won't change my review, but I look forward to the discussion!
Old 05-29-07, 10:18 AM
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It's obvious from the review that the reviewer let his personal bias against Mel Gibson taint his opinion of the film - which I don't think is great by any means, but certainly "good" and by no means deserving of Zero stars.

Of course, I now expect other DVD Talk reviewers to jump to his defense, stating things like "all reviewers bring a certain bias into their reviews" and "reviews are only one person's opinion". Of course, both those things are true, but neither account for the hatchet-job Gibson's film gets in this review. How you defend this one is anyone's guess, but I assume many will.

The most laughable statement in that review is over the commentary track where the reviewer states that he dislikes it because "Gibson and his co-writer talk solely about the actual production of Apocalypto". And I suppose if Gibson had mentioned some of his personal issues, you would have trashed it by saying "instead of talking about the movie, Gibson uses the commentary track as a self-serving method to comment on his personal life." Seems like the guy can't win with you no matter what he does.

There are a lot of other laughable bits in the review (incoherent plot? it was simplistic to be sure, but incoherent???), but one that really irks me is the comments about the movie being filled with gore. It's not. Yes, there is a lot of violence, but it's not violence for violence sake - Gibson has a story to tell, and I never felt one shot was needlessly bloody...and I'm someone who gets ill watching horror movies, because I hate on-screen gore.

While there's scholarly debate on just how brutal a society the Mayans were, to say this movie depicts them as mindless savages is totally a misrepresentation of the movie. It also implies that Gibson didn't research his topic very well, and that's clearly not the case.

I could go on and on, but won't...I just hope this review doesn't discourage anyone from seeing the movie. Those who already have should already know what a silly knee-jerk reaction this review is.

Last edited by Shannon Nutt; 05-29-07 at 10:21 AM.
Old 05-29-07, 10:28 AM
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Funny thing is, I like Mel Gibson. I'm now reviewing The Road Warrior and I'm loving it. I love the Lethal Weapon movies, Braveheart, etc.

And since when is it knee-jerk to dislike a movie with bad writing and over the top, one sided depictions of entire groups of people? I think people are getting hung up over the fact that I mention Gibson's dad and his drunken incident. I didn't do that to attack Mel Gibson, I did it to give the movie context. If you read many of my reviews, you'll find that I start with the circumstances leading up to the making of the picture. I think knowing what was going on when a film was made helps us understand the picture.

Last edited by Supermallet; 05-29-07 at 10:32 AM.
Old 05-29-07, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Shannon
Of course, I now expect other DVD Talk reviewers to jump to his defense, stating things like "all reviewers bring a certain bias into their reviews" and "reviews are only one person's opinion". Of course, both those things are true...
Well, you never complained about it when you used to review here and we defended you all the time...

I haven't seen either movie (Passion or this one) so I'm not going to address the quality of the movie itself but I have noticed that a lot of people have taken to piling on Gibson since his tirade awhile back while drunk. I try to look for the positive aspects of the movies I review and can't imagine one getting zero stars in all categories but your mileage may vary depending on the specific reviewer.
Old 05-29-07, 10:52 AM
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Just for reference, here are some reviews where I give outside context to the movie in question:

http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=28309
http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=28038
http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=26557
http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=26289
http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=25984
http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=25666
http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=25365
http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=25240
http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=24370

Also, if you go back to old threads about The Passion, you'll see I always gave Gibson a fair shake and never associated his dad or any of his comments with how I viewed the movie. This movie, on the other hand, seemed to call out for context, because without it, it's even more odd and lopsided than it already appears to be.

Last edited by Supermallet; 05-29-07 at 10:58 AM.
Old 05-29-07, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Shannon Nutt
Of course, I now expect other DVD Talk reviewers to jump to his defense, stating things like "all reviewers bring a certain bias into their reviews" and "reviews are only one person's opinion".
As a fellow DVDTalk reviewer, I think it's important to make it clear at this juncture that all reviewers bring a certain bias into their reviews, and after all, reviews are only one person's opinion.

Paul
Old 05-29-07, 11:21 AM
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Thanks Paul!

Originally Posted by Shannon Nutt

There are a lot of other laughable bits in the review (incoherent plot? it was simplistic to be sure, but incoherent???)
You're right, "incoherent" was the wrong word. I have thus changed it to "asinine."

Originally Posted by Shannon Nutt
but one that really irks me is the comments about the movie being filled with gore. It's not. Yes, there is a lot of violence, but it's not violence for violence sake - Gibson has a story to tell, and I never felt one shot was needlessly bloody...and I'm someone who gets ill watching horror movies, because I hate on-screen gore.
And as I mentioned above, I'm someone who loves on screen gore, but I felt Gibson was using gore as an excuse for lazy filmmaking, because some of those scenes could have been far more effective with simply the suggestion of gore, and it would have made the scenes that required gore much more shocking.

Originally Posted by Shannon Nutt
While there's scholarly debate on just how brutal a society the Mayans were, to say this movie depicts them as mindless savages is totally a misrepresentation of the movie. It also implies that Gibson didn't research his topic very well, and that's clearly not the case.
I'm sure Gibson did do his research...and then threw away everything that didn't fit with the way he wanted to portray the Mayans.
Old 05-29-07, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Shannon Nutt
Of course, I now expect other DVD Talk reviewers to jump to his defense, stating things like "all reviewers bring a certain bias into their reviews" and "reviews are only one person's opinion".
I am actually going to go the opposite route and defend what you had to say!

I respect, I think, what the reviewer has to say but clearly disagree with the sentiments expressed in the article. The pic does a fine job of reconstructing a nation whose violent nature led to self-extermination and violence in my opinion was not used recklessly.

The article states that the gore in Passion was used as a tool to show the extent to which Jesus suffered for the sins of mankind. Similar is the role violence serves in Apocalypto. The Mayans suffered from their own inability to evolve, grow more civilized...and vanished!! …or so I think Gibson was attempting to point out.

As to the use of language...it is not a gimmick but yet another piece meant to enhance how secluded and archaic the Mayan culture was (gimmick was the use of made-up language in the Return of the Jedi).

Finally, I know that it has become rather fancy to sneak in an anti-Semitic comment each time a Gibson film is reviewed, even for works he did prior to his ill words, but claiming that Apocalypto is a form of cinematic xenophobia is flat out wrong! Xenophobia had no role in this film whatsoever!


Pro-B

Last edited by pro-bassoonist; 05-29-07 at 02:13 PM.
Old 05-29-07, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by pro-bassoonist
I respect, I think, what the reviewer has to say but clearly disagree with the sentiments expressed in the article.
I'll have to agree with this. Every reviewer has an opinion but to me 0 stars says no redeemable quality to any aspect of the film. I enjoyed this movie quite a bit and it exceeded my expectations.


Typically, based on a representative sample of several reviews over time, I can gauge how relevant a reviewer is within the scope of my particular tastes. If we frequently agree and they recommend a film, I'd most likely seek it out or if they say to avoid one I probably would. On the other hand, if I disagree so drastically and often enough... Let's just say I pretty much know by now to skip any movie review published by "The Village Voice."

For the near future, this Apocalypto review is so far off from my reality that it will cause me to reconsider whether your opinion would be an accurate reflection of my own. Such as when Ebert called Troy a tie for worst film of that year... He lost some serious points for that one.
But don't worry Suprmallet, over time you can redeem your average so try not to lose any sleep over it in the meantime...
Old 05-29-07, 06:16 PM
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That's okay, I'm sure my superior taste will bring you around in time...
Old 05-29-07, 08:25 PM
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I was gonna post something on this review, its one of the worst reviews on this site. I dont see how you could hate this guy that much. On the gore in the movie, I dont think this movie was that gory and in that era it was a very violent place. Whats up with his hate of Mel Gibson, I still like him.
Old 05-29-07, 08:39 PM
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mental note "ignore reviews by Daniel Hirshleifer in the future", done...

just kidding, I actually like this reviewer but very strongly disagree with his opinion on this one, or should I say bias?

Last edited by purplechoe; 05-29-07 at 08:41 PM.
Old 05-29-07, 10:57 PM
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Originally Posted by purplechoe
mental note "ignore reviews by Daniel Hirshleifer in the future", done...

just kidding, I actually like this reviewer but very strongly disagree with his opinion on this one, or should I say bias?
Yup...strongly disagree with his review. I hate Mel Gibson, never liked him but Apocalypto was one of the best movies i've watch. I think as a reviewer, one should review the movie for what it is.
Old 05-30-07, 04:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Suprmallet
Funny thing is, I like Mel Gibson. I'm now reviewing The Road Warrior and I'm loving it. I love the Lethal Weapon movies, Braveheart, etc.
Originally Posted by Suprmallet
Also, if you go back to old threads about The Passion, you'll see I always gave Gibson a fair shake and never associated his dad or any of his comments with how I viewed the movie.
Quoted for emphasis towards people who think this review was borne out of an anti-Gibson bias.

Also, here's my Lethal Weapon 2 review that I gave good marks to: http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read....=24842&___rd=1

And I'm currently reviewing Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and I'll be praising the movie left and right, including Gibson in it. If I had an anti-Gibson bias, I would have not already given a good review to LW2 and would not be in the process of writing a good review for Mad Max 2.

Last edited by Supermallet; 05-30-07 at 04:33 AM.
Old 05-30-07, 05:43 AM
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What a joke of a review but then again thats not uncommon on this site. Giving Daredevil a perfect score but giving Schindler's List, for instance, a 4 or giving Predator 2 a 5/5 and giving Children of Men a 4/5. All that is a stain on this site's review section but then again what's a stain on a stain. Its easy to tell that you rated this film so harshly because of Gibson's drunken remarks almost a year ago and you can't deny the obvious
Old 05-30-07, 07:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Harry Lime
What a joke of a review but then again thats not uncommon on this site. Giving Daredevil a perfect score but giving Schindler's List, for instance, a 4 or giving Predator 2 a 5/5 and giving Children of Men a 4/5.
The Daredevil review was by Shannon Nutt, one of the posters critical of Daniel's review, incidentally.

Although I do agree that 5 star reviews shouldn't be given out so freely, review scores are not meant to be absolute. I'd rather see them go away entirely since people have a tendency to focus on the number of stars and ignore the text.
Old 05-30-07, 09:16 AM
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I can't believe this review...I know some people who don't like this movie, but comparing it to 'The Passion' as far as intent is a stretch. Mel stated he wasn't trying to go for the same thing, wasn't looking for the same audience and certainly Apocalypto was more 'popcorn flick' from the get go than it was 'personal message movie'. Even if you were expecting 'the passion 2' and found similarities, to let that get in the way of your enjoyment of a good chase flick, I just can't understand that.

If this were in English and made by another director, I have a hard time believing you'd give it ZERO stars. Really? Regardless of how you feel it depicts 'an entire civilization of people', you're telling me nothing in the last HOUR of the film was entertaining enough to even give it a SINGLE STAR? I'm not saying the movie is for everyone, but it seems to me it didn't get a fair shake in this review.
Old 05-30-07, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by mdc3000
I can't believe this review...I know some people who don't like this movie, but comparing it to 'The Passion' as far as intent is a stretch. Mel stated he wasn't trying to go for the same thing, wasn't looking for the same audience and certainly Apocalypto was more 'popcorn flick' from the get go than it was 'personal message movie'. Even if you were expecting 'the passion 2' and found similarities, to let that get in the way of your enjoyment of a good chase flick, I just can't understand that.

If this were in English and made by another director, I have a hard time believing you'd give it ZERO stars. Really? Regardless of how you feel it depicts 'an entire civilization of people', you're telling me nothing in the last HOUR of the film was entertaining enough to even give it a SINGLE STAR? I'm not saying the movie is for everyone, but it seems to me it didn't get a fair shake in this review.
Agree 100%. The reviewer should be ashamed of himself for this review. I would prefer to have Gibson's future reviews done by another reviewer, because it's obvious (despite what the reviewer said) that his hatred of Gibson factored into the review.
Old 05-30-07, 10:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Suprmallet
Quoted for emphasis towards people who think this review was borne out of an anti-Gibson bias.

Also, here's my Lethal Weapon 2 review that I gave good marks to: http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read....=24842&___rd=1

And I'm currently reviewing Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and I'll be praising the movie left and right, including Gibson in it. If I had an anti-Gibson bias, I would have not already given a good review to LW2 and would not be in the process of writing a good review for Mad Max 2.
Does not compute. These are popcorn action movies starring Mel the actor whereas Passion and Apocolypto are from Mel the producer / director with a political / social / spiritual message. Just because you give a positive review to the former does not mean there is not some bias against the latter.

Daniel, you know I like you, but I was also disappointed in your review. It's clear, obvious, and beyond dispute that you let your personal feelings for the man and his views greatly influence your review. Whether you did it for the sake of controversy or merely to take a slam at the man himself, only you know.

What I do know is that you are far more capable than this and this review does not reflect what I know of you. Just keep in mind that in the future, your politics and your reviews should not intersect.
Old 05-30-07, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Suprmallet
Quoted for emphasis towards people who think this review was borne out of an anti-Gibson bias.
Then why the two opening paragraphs about him?
Old 05-30-07, 10:36 AM
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DVD Talk should pull that "review" (and I use that term loosely) and have another person handle the review of the film, because not only does that current review make a good movie look bad, it makes the site as a whole, lose credibility with many people.
Old 05-30-07, 10:42 AM
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haven't seen the movie, so cant comment, but this line made me crack up yesterday. good show

Originally Posted by Suprmallet
If you're watching a movie about a man pooping in excruciating detail, but it's beautifully shot outdoors in a jungle, does that make the movie better? No.
Old 05-30-07, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by DVD Josh
Daniel, you know I like you, but I was also disappointed in your review. It's clear, obvious, and beyond dispute that you let your personal feelings for the man and his views greatly influence your review.
Now, I haven't seen the movie and have no opinion on it, but why should it be a taboo for outside factors about the making of a movie to affect our perception of that movie? It is a fact that the behavior of Mel Gibson the man has a heavy influence over how we look at Mel Gibson the movie star and filmmaker, and forces us to look at the work he produces in a new light.

It's really no different than any other celebrity scandal. There are many people who still refuse to see movies by Roman Polanski because of his rape scandal in the 70s. I don't necessarily agree with that, but is their opinion less valid than others?

If Roman Polanski made a movie about underage kids having sex, wouldn't most people, yourself included, be really upset about it? Yet we're not supposed to get upset when a religious bigot makes a movie about an entire culture of bloodthirsty non-Christian hethens murdering each other in grisly detail because they haven't yet been introduced to the divine wisdom of Jesus Christ?

You honestly don't see how Gibson's personal politics play a major role in the development of this movie?

Originally Posted by mdc3000
I know some people who don't like this movie, but comparing it to 'The Passion' as far as intent is a stretch. Mel stated he wasn't trying to go for the same thing, wasn't looking for the same audience
Gibson also stated that he didn't agree with his father's anti-Semitic views. And yet....

Last edited by Josh Z; 05-30-07 at 11:52 AM.
Old 05-30-07, 12:00 PM
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It's one persons opinion on the movie, I see no need to get in an uproar over it. Different strokes for different folks (regardless of whether those strokes are biased or what not).

If you don't like his reviews, avoid them in the future. No need to lambaste him for it IMO. He's as entitled to his opinion and his biases just like all of us are. I know people put more scrutiny on official site reviewers, but it's not like these are paid professional reviewers. They're just volunteering their time to give the site reviews, and should be cut some slack and not held up on the same pedestal as professional critics in regards to needing to be unbiased etc.

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