While I (unlike Mr. James Rocchi) managed to enjoy Mel Gibson'sApocalpyto as a piece of exotic-yet-semi-standard action/adventure epic lunacy, I didn't give the flick much thought where "historical accuracy" was concerned. My default position is this: Filmmakers make stuff up all the time, and if you think the phrase "based on actual events" means you're getting even half of the straight facts, well, you might be a little bit gullible. If someone had cornered me and asked "How accurate do you think Apocalypto was, as far as the ancient Mayan culture goes?" I'd have said "Hmph, I dunno. Semi-accurate?"

Well, now it sure looks like I'm the gullible one, because according to one University of Texas professor, Mel Gibson's Apocalypto is a big fat pack of Apoca-lip service. Based upon what I just read in this excellent interview piece by Chris Garcia, UT art history professor Julia Guernsey is ... well, she's pretty pissed off.

"I hate it. I despise it. I think it's despicable," is what the prof had to say regarding the film's lack of historical accuracy before going on to explain where Mel Gibson deviated from reality -- and why. Murals, human sacrifices, geography, cultural attitudes, hell, even the basic timeline has been monkeyed with to no end: "It would be as though somebody did a movie on our American culture and they had Madonna and Marilyn Monroe riding in a car together, or they had a meeting of George Bush, Teddy Roosevelt and George Washington because why not condense a couple hundred or a couple thousand years?" Yowch.

Ms. Guernsey seems to make a whole lot of fascinting points here, and her main irritant is a particularly valid one: "What is scary is that people will leave the movie thinking that because the characters were speaking Mayan there is an air of authenticity."

That last quote leads me to believe that maybe, hey, I did nail this movie when I first saw it. I called it "a harsh and intense action flick with a splash of exotic paint to make it seem deeper." Needless to say, history professors will not be placing Apocalypto on their syllabi anytime real soon.
categories Cinematical