I was fortunate to meet a few members of the faculty from ASU's School of Human Evolution and Social Change during a meeting of the Undergraduate Anthropology Association last week. Dr. Michael Smith, an archaeologist specializing in Mesoamerica, shared with us how he got into archaeology, and also his thoughts after an early screening of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto.
In his word, the film was "terrible." He said it was a long portrayal of the Maya as bloodthirsty and extremely violent.
Today I stumbled onto a more lengthy (yet similar) review of the film by another anthropologist, Dr. Traci Arden from the University of Miami.
Arden, too, focused on the relentless violence, and the message that Gibson may be trying to send via the violent portrayal of Mayan Society. She believes Gibson is using the collapse of Mayan Urbanism as a metaphor for the decline of modern society. The Mayan civilization, and the Elite in particular, are unredeemable in Gibson's view, with the Maya being saved only by the arrival of Christian missionaries at the end of the film.
Arden worries that the visual beauty of the film's setting, combined with the authentic appearance of architecture, ceremonial clothing and accessories, will cement this story as truth in the minds of moviegoers.
I can't help it... I still want to see it.