Sunday, December 17, 2006


The Moral Premise in
(2006, Theatrical, 139 min.)

What is the moral premise of APOCALYPTO and how is it articulated in the story's turning points and most importantly, the Moment of Grace? I'll give you my take, then feel free to add your comments and disagree. Figuring these things out is easier as a group. For instance, on this movie my wife was the first to point out the Moment of Grace (I didn't see it at first, although I knew right where it was), and during my weekly radio conversation with Gus Lloyd (Sirius 159- The Catholic Channel, Friday mornings), Gus refined the virtue wording that you see below. So, let me take a crack at this, and please feel free to chime in.

WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW. You can't talk about a film's moral premise without engaging the spoilers.

APOCALYPTO's Moral Premise: (Take 1)
Succumbing to fear leads to destruction; but
Chasing courage leads to a new beginning.

Discussion: First I'm going to assume Apocalypto will be a success at connecting with audiences. That says the moral premise is consistently imbued into the story (and film) and is true. At first I was put off by the violence and blood. But Gibson, being a Catholic who takes his religion seriously, understands the importance that blood plays in the sacrifice of the Mass. Catholics, in a supernatural sense, drink blood every Sunday.

Gibson also is making an important statement about the rise and fall of civilizations, especially his own. The move begins with a quote from Will Durant that one source says he wrote about the fall of the Roman Empire: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." That's an important hint. It is not the moral premise, but it points strongly to it.

The moral premise makes itself known early on. We are introduced to Jaguar Paw's village first through its hunters, who are fearless as they trap, kill, and share the organs of a tapir. But a chance encounter with another village's refugees who have succumbed to fear sets Jaguar Paw down a path of fear that his father, a wise village elder, tells him is a sickness, a disease, and it that must be kept out of the village (e.g. civilization).

Soon Paw's village is overrun by fierce warriors who rape, pillage, burn, and take Paw and others captive, hauling them off to a Mayan culture that in many ways reminds us of modern Western society with its images of warfare, societal breakdowns, abject poverty, corrupt riches, superstitious evangelists, rejection of the elderly, and human sacrifice. These are people that have succumbed to fear that has escalated them through stages of selfish neglect, deep-seated greed, unquenchable thirst for power -- all culminating in a culture of death.

We experience all of this through Paw's eyes and he slowly gives in to the temptation of nearly uncontrolled fear as his captives have feared. Or, will he recall not only his father's warnings, but his father's courage and peace when his throat was slit in front of Paw?

So, let me open this up for discussion? What is Jaguar Paw's physical goal? When is the Moment of Grace in this movie? And what psychological and physical change does the protagonist, Jaguar Paw, make and experience at his moment of grace?

1 comment:

E. I. Sanchez said...

After running, and escaping death multiple times, Paw rises from the quick sand, reborn - a new man. No longer afraid of death, and looking forward to saving his loved ones.

I look forward to other comments.

I must say that I really enjoyed the movie. It was fast, engaging, and unpredictable.