Mercury

Apocalypto

39 posts in this topic

Last week, I'd concluded that Apocalypto would be a straight gorefest and had no intention of seeing it. Yet, today, I'm hearing that it's not as bad as the trailers suggest. My suspicion is that it may have an environmentalist message which appeals to some reviewers.

Then I thought I'd, strictly for fun, ask my fellow FORUMites: Will you see Apocalypto?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Then I thought I'd, strictly for fun, ask my fellow FORUMites: Will you see Apocalypto?

I'm not planning to see it, unless someone like yourself gives it a (surprisingly) good recommendation.

I am planning, though, to see Blood Diamond on Sunday, and I am really looking forward to seeing The Pursuit of Happyness on the 16th.

(Anyone know why "Happyness" is spelled with a "y?") ... oops, update. Before posting I checked imdb.com and they say "The spelling error in the title is intentional: it refers to an important scene in the movie." Sounds interesting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will not see it. Instead of Environmentalism, I expect a message from the horrible Mel Gibson which displays the bloody, barbaric savages of Central America as brave, heroic, and admirable. Disgusting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will not see it. Instead of Environmentalism, I expect a message from the horrible Mel Gibson which displays the bloody, barbaric savages of Central America as brave, heroic, and admirable. Disgusting.

That's not what I got from the trailers. What I understood from them, and what was corroborated by a review of it I'd heard on TV, was that it's a movie that puts Aztec savagery side to side with their achievements in architecture or whatever. There's a powerful and growing movement today to admire the Mesoamericans, or at least to not denigrate them, by pointing to their achievements such as the great pyramid of Tenochtitlan which was discovered to have a base as large as the Great Pyramid at Giza. So what this movie will seem to do, will be to set the story amongst those buildings, and among such a culture, and show that it is still despicable. The punctured and ritually scarred faces look at once proper to the period, and horrible. Maybe this will scare the modern Mexicans into reality. I do intend on seeing the movie, for factual information if nothing else, but also because it's set in a place very different from what we're used to. Reasonably speaking, I can't help but be at least somewhat impressed by the Mesoamerican old architecture, so it'll be interesting how Mel Gibson deals with it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not planning to see it, unless someone like yourself gives it a (surprisingly) good recommendation.

Oh no! I was hoping, for exactly the same reasons, that you'd do it. :D

I am planning, though, to see Blood Diamond on Sunday, and I am really looking forward to seeing The Pursuit of Happyness on the 16th.

I might even see Blood Diamond tonight, and if not tonight, tomorrow. I'll let you know how it went. The trailer is riveting. I'll bet the philosophy is leftist, but the atmosphere of the movie seems really charged, and the acting is likely top-notch.

(Anyone know why "Happyness" is spelled with a "y?") ... oops, update. Before posting I checked imdb.com and they say "The spelling error in the title is intentional: it refers to an important scene in the movie." Sounds interesting.

I had the same question too. I'd thought it was done for some hip-hop-related reason (since Will Smith has another career as a hip-hop performer), but that was cleared up by a review of the biography it's based on, which I read on Amazon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So what this movie will seem to do, will be to set the story amongst those buildings, and among such a culture, and show that it is still despicable.

A question though, is to what degree Gibson, an ardent Catholic, is acting as an apologist for the brutality of the Catholic Spanish conquistidors (e.g. "See - these people were only worthless savages so it was ok to kill them off at will.") Unlike later American pioneers who were primarily interested in creating a life in the New World, the Spanish simply plundered the gold and brought it back to Spain - a mentality similar to the modern Middle East that plunders the oil while squandering it on the excesses of worthless playboys, while maintaining a de facto savage culture. While the rest of Europe and America advanced, Spain spent the plunder and had nothing much to show for it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A question though, is to what degree Gibson, an ardent Catholic, is acting as an apologist for the brutality of the Catholic Spanish conquistidors (e.g. "See - these people were only worthless savages so it was ok to kill them off at will.") Unlike later American pioneers who were primarily interested in creating a life in the New World, the Spanish simply plundered the gold and brought it back to Spain - a mentality similar to the modern Middle East that plunders the oil while squandering it on the excesses of worthless playboys, while maintaining a de facto savage culture. While the rest of Europe and America advanced, Spain spent the plunder and had nothing much to show for it.

Phil, what source are you using for such a postmodern, multiculturalist view?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Phil, what source are you using for such a postmodern, multiculturalist view?

Er, which part exactly are you claiming is wrong? Do you think that the Spanish represented some kind of great civilizing influence? As I said in my post, it was the *American* colonists who actually wanted to build lives in the New World. If you think that the Spanish were great, good luck explaining why Mexico and points south are still backward cesspools (to varying degrees) - the very places most touched by the Spanish. What source do I use for *that*? Well, how many millions do you want? Why do you think Mexicans - Spanish speaking and Spanish influenced - come to America en masse? Because Mexico is such a great place?

And, good luck explaining that great civilized Catholic Spanish invention of the Inquisition. Take a look at the abysmal colonial efforts of Spain (and France) and compare the results up to the modern day - and contrast that with the success of English colonization.

Nor am I saying that the pre-Spanish New World was some beacon of civilization. However, they certainly did a great deal of building of cities and roads, far beyond what the North American Indians ever accomplished, and I remain skeptical of history as presented by Spanish priests, who wholesale destroyed ancient records. The idea that *Christianity qua Christianity* was a civilizing influence is vicious propaganda of a different sort, albeit commonly accepted as a false alternative to multiculturism.

And a final, lesser, fact remains: Mel Gibson is certainly an extremely messed up guy and certainly a top propagandist for Christianity today via popular mass media (e.g. The Passion of the Christ), supported by his own public statements.

If you consider all of what I am saying, "post-modern and multiculturist", you are confused.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A question though, is to what degree Gibson, an ardent Catholic, is acting as an apologist for the brutality of the Catholic Spanish conquistidors (e.g. "See - these people were only worthless savages so it was ok to kill them off at will.") Unlike later American pioneers who were primarily interested in creating a life in the New World, the Spanish simply plundered the gold and brought it back to Spain - a mentality similar to the modern Middle East that plunders the oil while squandering it on the excesses of worthless playboys, while maintaining a de facto savage culture. While the rest of Europe and America advanced, Spain spent the plunder and had nothing much to show for it.

Ok, but the these people were only worthless savages. A civilization that officially participates in mass-human sacrifice needs to be conquered. How can you really morally condemn the Spaniards?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Er, which part exactly are you claiming is wrong? Do you think that the Spanish represented some kind of great civilizing influence? As I said in my post, it was the *American* colonists who actually wanted to build lives in the New World. If you think that the Spanish were great, good luck explaining why Mexico and points south are still backward cesspools (to varying degrees) - the very places most touched by the Spanish. What source do I use for *that*? Well, how many millions do you want? Why do you think Mexicans - Spanish speaking and Spanish influenced - come to America en masse? Because Mexico is such a great place?

And, good luck explaining that great civilized Catholic Spanish invention of the Inquisition. Take a look at the abysmal colonial efforts of Spain (and France) and compare the results up to the modern day - and contrast that with the success of English colonization.

Nor am I saying that the pre-Spanish New World was some beacon of civilization. However, they certainly did a great deal of building of cities and roads, far beyond what the North American Indians ever accomplished, and I remain skeptical of history as presented by Spanish priests, who wholesale destroyed ancient records. The idea that *Christianity qua Christianity* was a civilizing influence is vicious propaganda of a different sort, albeit commonly accepted as a false alternative to multiculturism.

And a final, lesser, fact remains: Mel Gibson is certainly an extremely messed up guy and certainly a top propagandist for Christianity today via popular mass media (e.g. The Passion of the Christ), supported by his own public statements.

If you consider all of what I am saying, "post-modern and multiculturist", you are confused.

Phil, I very strongly disagree with this post, on many, many factual points. Nor do I agree with the overall characterization that the conquest of Americas was conquest of "Christianity qua Christianity". In fact when Western culture truly was qua Christianity, it was unable to conquer anyone. The men fighting the Aztecs were very different from the knights battling it out with Arabs in the crusades. So while I certainly don't agree with Jason about characterization of your own views, I will say that the primary source for articles and information about this subject is a highly, highly, postmodern and relativist intellectual culture. This subject merits its very own thread. I have the book "Conquest of New Mexico" already put up for rating, and I will soon post all the information that I think is relevant there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Phil, I very strongly disagree with this post, on many, many factual points.

Which ones? And I am still waiting for your explanation as to why Mexico and points south - the areas that were most Spanish influenced - are backwaters, compared to English colonization. Unless you think that's unimportant, which would be rather strange in this context.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, but the these people were only worthless savages. A civilization that officially participates in mass-human sacrifice needs to be conquered. How can you really morally condemn the Spaniards?

"The Spanish Inquisition was established in 1478 by Ferdinand and Isabella to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms and was under the direct control of the Spanish monarchy. It was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabel II." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Inquisition)

The Catholics engaged in mass human sacrifice on a scale that was probably larger. George Bush has sent about 3,000 Americans to their death in what can only be called a pointless sacrifice of lives, given the non-definition of objectives and the altruist goals involved. Does that mean that all of America is comprised of worthless savages? Until Ayn Rand, no culture had a non-altruist philosophy; and short of Objectivists, none does even now. There are currently only degrees of good and evil, a muddy mixture, much worse in some places (Iran) and the best in America.

The cities and 14,000 miles of roads connecting them, were arguably slightly about the level of "only worthless savages" (far, far beyond the American Indians), and it is a historical fact that the Catholic priests destroyed massive numbers of their historical documents. Why?

Spain was at war with practically everybody, including many times other worthless savages such as the English and other parts of Europe.

Even after the American Revolution, the Spanish attempted to use the Creek Indians in the south to attack America. To take one historical document (from official U.S. Congressional documents, on a CD-ROM that I publish on Indian history):

Extracts from a letter to the Secretary of War from James Seagrove, agent for Indian affairs, dated at SAVANNAH, January 13th, 1795.

Some chiefs of the Creeks were on a visit to the Governor of Georgia, about six weeks past. I am sorry to find that the proceeding of the Legislature of Georgia, relative to them, was not such as they had reason to expect: it having been debated in Senate, for some days, whether or not they should be detained as prisoners, until the treaty of New York should be complied with: The Indians knew it, and I believe returned much displeased.

I find they (the Creek chiefs) are determined to try their strength in the nation, to crush the plunderers and murderers, and to return the property taken from this country: but I much doubt the ability of the well disposed to effect this; as the vicious and ill reclined are forbid, by the Spanish agents, to deliver up any property or prisoners to the Americans, or to give any kind of satisfaction whatever.

I also find that a principal part of the chiefs' business down, was to endeavor to have a trade established for them, as they wished to break off all connexion with the Spaniards, in the way of trade; but until they can get supplies from the United States, they must continue dependent on the Spaniards, who, they publicly say, advise them to every thing injurious to the United States, and keep their young people in an ungovernable situation. These are matters which I know to be strictly just.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Which ones? And I am still waiting for your explanation as to why Mexico and points south - the areas that were most Spanish influenced - are backwaters, compared to English colonization. Unless you think that's unimportant, which would be rather strange in this context.

English colonies... you mean the tiny strip of land on North America's eastern coast? Considering William Bradford arrived only in the 17th century, and that the colonies as a whole became economically relevant only in the 18th, I hardly think English colonization stands to be compared with the Spanish. Spain was the only power in Europe in the 16 century but became less and less relevant by the 18th, while at the same time political and cultural climate in Europe changed drastically (John Locke and Newton et al. became prominent). So it's hard to say whether one was superior to the other, and to me they are simply incommensurate.

Anyhow, since this thread is about a movie about the Aztecs, I'm not sure how the thread evolved into English and Spanish colonization. I do have quite a bit to say about Aztecs and Spanish, and I'll do so within a few days.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Spain was at war with practically everybody, including many times other worthless savages such as the English and other parts of Europe.

In retrospect it might not be obvious that I am being somewhat sarcastic here; the English were, as far as I am concerned, much more civilized than the Spanish, in response to some notion that anybody they fought must, by that fact alone, be worthless savages.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

English colonies... you mean the tiny strip of land on North America's eastern coast?

Yeah - the tiny strip of land that became the greatest country on earth. And again: what exactly did the Spanish leave behind in the wake of their plunder and religious tyranny? Such shining beacons of civilization as Mexico and points south?

To repeat: There is a vast difference between the productive American colonists, and what they accomplished with that "tiny strip of land" as a start, and the Spanish, and the results are blindingly obvious in 2006.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
And again: what exactly did the Spanish leave behind in the wake of their plunder and religious tyranny? Such shining beacons of civilization as Mexico and points south?
What about a Westernized whole of Americas? California? What language do the modern Aztecs and Incas speak again? I think they habla Espanol...

But like I said, I don't think Spanish colonization is commensurate with the English, because Spain was far in decay during the 18th century when ideas of Locke came most fully to the fore, while no European country, not even the enterprising British Puritans, can match the brilliant energy and sheer ingenuity that marked the Spanish colonists and immigrants in the 16th century. If the people had lost their vigor since then, that does not negate the incredible feats they once accomplished singlehandedly, while all other European powers persevered in a stale and mouldy existence.

To repeat: There is a vast difference between the productive American colonists, and what they accomplished with that "tiny strip of land" as a start, and the Spanish, and the results are blindingly obvious in 2006.
Well that's like saying that the Arabic civilization 800AD-1200AD has little in terms of accomplishments by 2006, and therefore it's worthless. English colonists are certainly glorious, but Spanish men during their golden period had been single-handedly accomplishing incomparably brilliant personal feats. Whether their record was maintained by posterity is, as far as I'm concerned, a moot point. I'll concede that the British have been doing better in that department, if that matters. That's all I'll say here, and give me a few days to flesh it out more fully in its own thread.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A question though, is to what degree Gibson, an ardent Catholic, is acting as an apologist for the brutality of the Catholic Spanish conquistidors (e.g. "See - these people were only worthless savages so it was ok to kill them off at will.") Unlike later American pioneers who were primarily interested in creating a life in the New World, the Spanish simply plundered the gold and brought it back to Spain - a mentality similar to the modern Middle East that plunders the oil while squandering it on the excesses of worthless playboys, while maintaining a de facto savage culture. While the rest of Europe and America advanced, Spain spent the plunder and had nothing much to show for it.

I could not disagree more strongly with your reading of both the history of the encounter between Renaissance Europeans and the ancient Mesoamericans and what appears to me to be your notion of the somewhat benign "nature" of those ancient Mesoamericans (benign at least in comparison with the Spanish Catholics who conquered them). A good starting point would be the story of the conquest of the Azteca. Whatever the initial motivations might have been, the story of Cortes, his very small band of bedraggled men and their ultimate conquest of the infinitely more powerful and numerous Azteca is one of the most fascinating historical examples NOT of Christian/Catholic religious faith in action but, rather precisely, of the power of the inquisitive and inventive mind over superstition and an entrenched (not to mention horrific and bloodthirsty) mysticism of the first order. That this occurred in the early 16th Century, and not earlier, was no accident.

If Apocalypto is not something that would appeal to you (I remain undecided about it precisely because I can't gather what Gibson's point of view actually is), I can recommend highly Hugh Thomas' book "Conquest" which I found to be a thrilling and exciting examination of both Cortes and Montezuma and how their encounter HAD to turn out the way it did.

Conquest, Hugh Thomas

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's a powerful and growing movement today to admire the Mesoamericans, or at least to not denigrate them, by pointing to their achievements such as the great pyramid of Tenochtitlan which was discovered to have a base as large as the Great Pyramid at Giza. So what this movie will seem to do, will be to set the story amongst those buildings, and among such a culture, and show that it is still despicable. The punctured and ritually scarred faces look at once proper to the period, and horrible. Maybe this will scare the modern Mexicans into reality.

That's pretty much the way the previews have come across to me thus far, but I'm still uncertain as to Gibson's point of view. Perhaps a visit to the theater might be in order.

I cannot imagine how I would react to seeing 10,000 sacrificial victims (this is the best numerical estimate of only one of the events witnessed by Cortes before his conquest of the Azteca) forced to climb to the top of a pyramid where their hearts were ripped out of their still-alive chests, their then lifeless bodies flung to the ground below, whereupon their limbs were chopped off and tossed into vast pits of boiling liquid and then passed out to the crowd for festive consumption.

By the way, I believe the pyramid you mention is that of the Sun at Teotihuacan . . . and nobody can determine definitively who built the complex at Teotihiuacan though it certainly predates the Azteca by many centuries and also does not appear to be the work of either the Olmecs or Toltecs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, I do know how I would react to seeing the kind of carnage described above. The question is whether I would survive the reaction.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, I do know how I would react to seeing the kind of carnage described above. The question is whether I would survive the reaction.

You would, if you have Spanish guns and Spanish courage.

By the way,

By the way, I believe the pyramid you mention is that of the Sun at Teotihuacan . . . and nobody can determine definitively who built the complex at Teotihiuacan though it certainly predates the Azteca

The temple I had in mind (the one with base equal to Khufu Pyramid at Giza) was the Grand Pyramid in Tenochtitlan (i.e. Mexico City). The Temple of the Sun I've read about, and it's certainly big, but don't remember anyone making comparisons for it. The Grand Pyramid (Templo Mayor) was only rediscovered a few decades ago, since it lies in the heart of Mexico City, so the archeologists can't measure everything as they'd like, but I seem to remember it being the one compared to the Khufu pyramid. It could be the Temple of the Sun I guess, but I be surprised if it was the Aztecs who accomplished the feat, since they certainly accomplished other considerable engineering feats, the city of Tenochtitlan being the most spectacular example. The Mesoamerican extraordinary chinampa land produced fertile yield seven or eight times a year, compared to, at best, three or four yields anywhere else.

Aztecs weren't a primitive people, but the important thing is that their achievements existed in a context, which is why although Cortes and his men were very impressed by the cities they'd seen, they suffered no crisis of confidence.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Aztecs weren't a primitive people, but the important thing is that their achievements existed in a context, which is why although Cortes and his men were very impressed by the cities they'd seen, they suffered no crisis of confidence.

When Nazi Germany spilled into the rest of Europe, they also suffered no crisis of confidence, as they saw themselves as the Superior Race to impose their Will onto inferiors. And similarly for Russia as it brutally pacified surrounding countries to be folded into the Soviet Empire. I see nothing to admire in unproductive countries that conquer for the sake of power-lust and plunder (as distinctly and diametrically opposed to productive pioneers.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The temple I had in mind (the one with base equal to Khufu Pyramid at Giza) was the Grand Pyramid in Tenochtitlan (i.e. Mexico City). The Temple of the Sun I've read about, and it's certainly big, but don't remember anyone making comparisons for it. The Grand Pyramid (Templo Mayor) was only rediscovered a few decades ago, since it lies in the heart of Mexico City, so the archeologists can't measure everything as they'd like, but I seem to remember it being the one compared to the Khufu pyramid.

I had heard of this discovery, but have not kept up with developments and/or any measurements taken. I wonder if it is viewed to be larger than the Pyramid of Cholula which, for some time, was listed as not only the largest Mesoamerican pyramid, but the largest man-made monument in the world (not nearly as tall as the Khufu pyramid, but of greater mass).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When Nazi Germany spilled into the rest of Europe, they also suffered no crisis of confidence, as they saw themselves as the Superior Race to impose their Will onto inferiors. And similarly for Russia as it brutally pacified surrounding countries to be folded into the Soviet Empire. I see nothing to admire in unproductive countries that conquer for the sake of power-lust and plunder (as distinctly and diametrically opposed to productive pioneers.)

Again, I question what appears to me to be your blanket attribution of motive to the Spanish with respect to their eventual conquest of Meso- and South America. It is simply not true that the explorers' primary motivation was, in general, to "conquer for the sake of power-lust and plunder". That they did ultimately (I would say inevitably) conquer the peoples in that part of the world does not necessarily speak to their initial motivations for exploration.

The technological wonders of some of their number aside, the peoples of the early 16th Century Americas were, by and large, essentially illiterate and all of them were Stone Age people. Their European contemporaries were at an entirely different and decidedly more "advanced" stage of civilizational development (several thousand years ahead of their Mesoamerican counterparts, in fact). I hold that any encounter between peoples so fundamentally different could have had nothing but "explosive" consequences irrespective of the intentions of either side, or whether the conquering side was "productive" or no so "productive" (however one wishes to define this). I do not believe the same can be said of those Inter-European conflicts revolving around Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union which you mention.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The technological wonders of some of their number aside, the peoples of the early 16th Century Americas were, by and large, essentially illiterate and all of them were Stone Age people. Their European contemporaries were at an entirely different and decidedly more "advanced" stage of civilizational development (several thousand years ahead of their Mesoamerican counterparts, in fact). I hold that any encounter between peoples so fundamentally different could have had nothing but "explosive" consequences irrespective of the intentions of either side ...

I'm not sure why you hold that there must be such explosive consequences under these circumstances. Couldn't the primitive people have held the Europeans as a force of nature, as Gods to be accepted and followed? If the abilities of the Europeans were so far advanced -- if their powers so great -- then why explosive consequences if the European's intentions were just?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure why you hold that there must be such explosive consequences under these circumstances. Couldn't the primitive people have held the Europeans as a force of nature, as Gods to be accepted and followed? If the abilities of the Europeans were so far advanced -- if their powers so great -- then why explosive consequences if the European's intentions were just?

I'm not sure what you're implying. The "Europeans" were essentially the Spanish when it comes to virtually all land south of the US. It is well know that the Spanish were brutal in the extreme to anyone who was a savage from the perspective of Christianity. Do you know of any Spanish conquerers who acted justly?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites