AP Photo/Icon Distribution, Andrew Cooper/SMPS
That's quite a spectacle Mel Gibson cooked up, down there in the Yucatan. "Apocalypto" is the story of one young Mayan's struggle to survive, rescue his wife and start a family against all odds, pursued and persecuted by a murderous, bloodthirsty regime -- and an angry momma jaguar. Critical opinion was mixed, with some hailing Gibson's vision as an auteur and his flair for blood-and-gore action sequences, others focusing more on the ultimately alienating incoherence of his vision. Ty Burr seemed to strike about the right balance in the Boston Globe, where he found an earlier precedent for Gibson's grandiosity.
If you have the stomach for it, though -- or if you like keeping in touch with the works of one of our wealthier outsider artists and/or don't mind funding an anti-Semite -- "Apocalypto" should be seen. Gibson is unique in modern pop culture: He's a troubled, self-made visionary with reprehensible personal ideas and real creative gifts, and he's financially free to do what he pleases. This is a dangerous and illuminating position, and where it will lead I haven't the foggiest.Burr is right to compare Gibson to Kane rather than his creator, Orson Welles, who could only dream of having Gibson's flair for finding financial success. If he had, Welles wouldn't have had to make all those Gallo commercials and might have been able to make a few more films on his own terms.
It's fascinating to watch, though. Gibson may even turn out to be our generation's flawed, outsized Charles Foster Kane; if so, "Apocalypto" could be his Xanadu, cluttered with intermittent marvels. God help us if he ever finds his Rosebud.