| The Red Right Hand
There are a myriad of positive points to be raised here, unfortunately they're dwarfed by tiny flaws that attach themselves to the back of your brain and refuse to let go. The problems start with Gibson's script. Similar to Passion Of The Christ this entire film is subtitled, not a point I usually raise but at one point the subtitles state a Mayan warrior says, "He's fucked." I don't know if it's just me but something feels very off there, as if the script has been penned primarily with a modern audience in mind. Secondly, the humour; Gibson can't write humorous on-screen events to save his life, the majority of the funny elements are either dick, ball or Mother-in-law jokes - I don't doubt the Mayans found that all very funny but if that's his only way of attaching a passionate side you can't help but wonder what he would churn out if he tried to write a straight comedy. Most importantly, though, are the events themselves. We are led to believe that our lead character's trial is set a day or two before the Spanish landed in South America, depicting the final days of the Mayan culture and all I could think about was the quantity of ancient cultural components that had been thrown together in one man's life like a shoddy Odysseus. Everything comes together a little too well and it just irritated me the whole time, reminding me of a dated, cliché-riddled adventure tale with eclipses, spring-loaded traps, pitfalls, wild animals and angry natives aplenty.
Jaguar Paw [Youngblood] is the son of a village leader and a diligent hunter. Every day he returns home to his pregnant wife [Hernandez] and toddler son and listens to the elders telling tales of the Earth in pain and purging whole civilisations as a punishment. Early one morning, a clan of body-snatching hunters sweep through his village, killing anyone who struggles and binding survivors to tree trunks - similar to a chain gang. Before capture, Jaguar Paw manages to hide his family in a shallow cave, in a desperate attempt to keep them out of harms' way. As the convoy reaches a vast city we realise that their world is in decline and the only way they can extricate themselves is by building more temples and offer more sacrifices - ah, little do they know this is in fact worsening their situation. Having escaped through a mixture of a mystical prophecy, circumstance, coincidence and determination, Jaguar Paw makes his way through the jungle, racing against the weather to get back to his family. During his break from captivity, Jaguar Paw kills the chief hunters' [Trujillo] son and is pursued with a relentless lust of vengeance.
The bloodlust is something that's going to divide audiences and critics alike; there will be those that see it as a realistic portrayal of an ancient civilisation and those that simply see an excess of unnecessary violence. I agree with both arguments but by the end of the film was leaning towards the latter. It is a fairly accurate depiction of mans' savagery in days gone by but it wasn't that alone that disturbed so many, it was a hidden sick delight for pushing the grisly elements to the front of the frame and extremely aggressive close-ups that denies the audience an imagination. Every single decapitation, blood-spurting wound and penetrating blade was shown in full, as close as the camera could get. It may have been realistic but a portrayal of realism through hyper-realised perspectives (ie. Closer than any man would care to get, in glorious High Definition Digital colour with THX surround sound) leaves for a very worn out audience and a rather unrealistic film. An underlying element of the plot is the statement, "A life of industry can easily be brought down by natural elements" shown by the fall of the Aztecs, whereas the peaceful tribal village is at one with nature - so they're the good guys and deserve to thrive. The whole eco-side of the film is a little hypocritical if you ask me as Jaguar Paw only manages to evade those hunting him by leading them into a large man-made trap (which felt a little Indiana Jones to me) and the arrival of the bloody Spanish! This changes the statement to, "Don't bother trying to advance your industry too much because Mother Nature will kick your arse and there will always be a more advanced civilisation willing to do it if she fails to!" From a historical enthusiasts' point of view, this serves as a very interesting study of an ancient civilisation, for those who enjoy a lot of running and blood this is definitely your cup-of-tea but as a movie this really doesn't reward its audience with anything other than 139 minutes of blood, guts and gore. If you want a better depiction I would recommend The Mission.
5th January 2007
The Scene To Look Out For:
About two-thirds of the way through the film, Gibson decides there has been too long a pause between violent disposals of men. To get around this he hides Jaguar Paw up a tree, stumbling across a Jaguar cub. As the tiny kitty attempts to growl, Jaguar Paw turns his head and finds himself face-to-face with an extremely pissed off Mummy. The chase sequence between Jaguar Paw and the jaguar itself is actually pretty impressive, I'm not sure if it was cut with CG or a domesticated cat but it looked phenomenal. Which is a shame because we're let down at the end: The hunters catch up with Jaguar Paw and as one member of the group dives through the trees just behind him, the Jaguar leaps up and rips his face off. To show the jaguar's struggle with the hunters, Gibson has enlisted a trusty Jag-Puppet, which looked ridiculous, like a really, really peeved Muppet.
Trujillo's portrayal of Zero Wolf is pretty impressive. He has the look of a man who has taken more than his share of lives and takes pride in the efforts of his son but behind that is the impression that he's brought countless trains of men to their death with no reward from the Gods; a modern military man's loss of faith, perhaps? Interesting character study, if you ask me.
"We must go to the forest, to seek a new beginning"
In A Few Words:
"A fascinating look at a dying Aztec world but may be far too gory for audiences to tolerate"