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November 30, 2006

I ♥ Kukulkan

I just got back from seeing a preview of Apocalypto, after a lovely Linguistic Club pre-function. Mark Sicoli and I both talked a bit on what we knew of the Mayans, whom the movie is ostensibly about (all the actors speak Yukatek Mayan, and I have to say they do a great job of acting, and speaking).

Mark suggested (and I must say I agree with him now, after seeing the movie) that it was really about the Aztecs -- or rather, that it might just have made a little sense if it were about them, rather than the Mayans. But as it is, the Mayans ought to sue Touchstone.

The movie is a sort of stew with 900 years of MesoAmerican history and mythology slopped in, overly seasoned with special effects, and stirred vigorously. If Mel Gibson had made the Passion to the same formula, Jesus would have escaped from the cross, swum the Mediterranean, and wound up assassinating Julius Caesar and Hitler.

Lots of gratuitous violence (but we knew that already), cool settings, plenty of suspense and vicarious vengeance... but that ending (which I will not reveal here, though you'll wish I had if you see the movie) spoils everything. I've never before experienced a literal deus ex machina; literal deus, literal machina. Unbelievable.

Bottom line: Read the Popol Vuh and skip the movie.

Update: There's a nice article in Salon today by a Maya scholar (which I am not) that says roughly the same thing -- it's historically inaccurate and gets the culture totally wrong.

Posted by jlawler at November 30, 2006 11:41 PM

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