This review is full of spoilers. Just so you know.
Mel Gibson heard tell their were people called Mayans who lived in South America once, before the Spanish arrived and saved them all from idolatry and their own barbarism. So, he made himself a movie, so we too would know all the bloody, cliched details.
Jaguar Paw, our Apocalypto-istic hero, is out huntin’ with pa and the boys, making lame jokes about his buddy, Smoke Frog, who can’t impregnate his wife. JP’s tribe is as obsessed with women having as many babies as those creepy Quiverfull Evangelicals. It’s kinda weird. Anyway, they meet another tribe of people who have been run out of their village and amazingly, can speak the same language. In fact, everyone in pre-Columbian South America speaks the same Mayan dialect, which translates neatly into idiomatic English subtitles. More wacky sexual hijacks ensue when they get back to the village. There’s a party, and we meet JP’s pregnant wife and young son (You can tell he’s our hero because he doesn’t shoot blanks). Oh, and we also meet Smoke Frog’s annoying mother-in-law. For future reference, Mr. Gibson (because I know you’re reading this), the annoying mother-in-law joke was old even then.
In the morning their village is raided and all the women and men are hauled off by scary dude with jawbones on his armor and his warriors. The kids are left behind. I’m sure they’ll be fine. Alone. In the jungle.
During the forced march across the jungle, we meet Little Oracle Annie, who has generic movie pestilence type B and delivers the obligatory prophetic message. JP and the gang arrive in Las Vegas, where they are press ganged into the Blue Man Group. JP narrowly avoids being sacrificed when the world’s fastest eclipse sneaks up on the Mayans. Who invented astronomy. These people devised one of the most intricate and accurate calendars and they’re all surprised by a solar eclipse. or maybe just by the fact that it happens in about a minute and a half.
The king of the dirty, filthy Mayans (who in real life, surprised the hell out of the Spanish by having a large, well organized, clean city) tells Jawbone to take JP and his boys out back and off them, since they don’t need any more heads to roll down steps (sorry guys, bowling league filled up fast this year). The worst game of Football ensues, during which JP escapes with only a minor arrow through the gut. So naturally, Jawbone and his dudes chase after.
The rest of the movie alternates between the standard hunters-become-the-hunted plot (complete with the totally debunked quicksand, angry panther that only our hero can outrun and a slide into home base) and scenes of JP’s wife and son in a hole in the ground where he hid them from the bad guys. Monkeys fall out of they sky and then it starts raining. Mrs. JP struggles not to drown and then gives birth underwater. Seriously, like a little baby rocket, he just launches from betwixt her loincloth. Because labor pains are apparently a Spanish invention. JP manages to kill everyone gruesomely and according to Prophecy Girl’s ramblings. Then the Spanish arrive.
It’s unfortunate that we don’t know all kinds of accurate and anthropologically sound things about the Mayans, or else this film would have really sucked. But at least in Gibsonland, we don’t, so he can just make shit up to stuff his silly Christian ideology into. Apocalypto wasn’t as bad a film as The Passion, because that is physically impossible. But hay, it’s really bloody, so I’m sure Christians will love it.