I saw a preview yesterday for Mel Gibson’s soon-to-be-summer-blockbuster "Apocalypto." It tells the story of the end of the Mayan civilization with the fit-for-contemporary-times tagline: "When the end comes, not everyone is ready." I think it’s pretty clear what he’s talking about.
What is less clear is why the title is in Spanish, given that Mayans didn’t speak Spanish. What’s also not overwhelmingly obvious is why Mr. Gibson maintains that "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destoyed itself from within," because as far as I remember, the Mayan civilization wasn’t destroyed from within by body piercing and teenage sex. It was destroyed by smallpox, and gunpowder. From the Spanish. Who invaded.
Now, unlike a lot of people on the left, I a) saw The Passion of the Christ, and b) didn’t think it was as terrible as it was made out to be. In fact, I think that the hysteria surrounding the film contributed to its success, which in turn fed the conviction that it was a watershed cultural event that bode ill for the future of progressives everywhere–a self-fulfilling prophesy which I would have had more patience for if half the people who claimed to be experts had bothered to see the thing. Of course, I can’t speak with too much authority on Apocalypto, but the preview does promise a smattering of earth mother-conservatism, an orgy of violence and a boatload of the end-of-days pornography that so much current cinema dishes up with relish. How successful it is may ultimately say less about a cultural predilection for Judgment than a seemingly endless appetite for gore and warrior calls. Only time will tell. I, for one, am more than ready for Apocalypto, though perhaps not in quite the way that Mr. Gibson intends.