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Apocalypto

review by Zach B.

 

 

Running Time: 138 Minutes

MPAA Rating: R (For Sequences of Graphic Violence, Disturbing Images)

Starring: Rudy Youngblood

Written by: Mel Gibson & Farhad Safina

Directed by: Mel Gibson

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Producer/Director Mel Gibson and Co-Writer/Co-Producer Farhad Safina, Deleted Scene with Optional Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Producer/Director Mel Gibson and Co-Writer/Co-Producer Farhad Safina, Becoming Mayan: Creating Apocalypto

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Mayan Dolby Digital 5.1, Mayan DTS 5.1, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, French Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (19 Scenes)

Released: May 22nd, 2007

 

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer for "Apocalypto" wonderfully captures the film's lush visuals, detailed designs and visceral camerawork. The color scheme of greens and browns look gorgeous, as the color saturation wonderfully captures the Mayan jungles and costumes of the Mayan people. The colors are rich and bold, and really pop out at you. Fleshtones are perfect, and so are black levels and shadow detail. Detail is also astounding, as you can easily see leaves on the thick trees and the slightest patterns on the actors' bodies and costumes. The print used for the transfer is really pristine, too.

Unfortunately, there are a few little flaws on the transfer. There is some slight edge enhancement, and sometimes the movie looks a bit soft. Contrast is also a bit on the high side sometimes, resulting in a little bit of noise and some edge halos. Still, they are not thankfully too distracting. This is a phenomenal transfer, showing off the visual feast that is "Apocalypto."

 

When it comes to showing off your sound system, "Apocalypto" is definitely one of those titles that scream reference quality (and quite literally, might I add). The DVD comes with Mayan tracks in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1, and each track is a fantastic, intense experience. The surround effects are dynamite: be it an animal squealing in the jungle, the trees rustling during a chase or blood gushing. There's also Mayan crowds roaring, and lots of action: darts flying and characters getting a few key injuries. James Horner's inspired score sounds great through the channels and all the dialogue is clear and easy to hear. Each mix has high fidelity and great dynamic range, as well as more-than-adequate use of the subwoofer. And thankfully, the sound elements blend well, too: nothing overpowers. It's hard to not be sucked into such a well-crafted sonic experience.

As it usually is the case, I found the DTS track slightly superior. The surround effects felt a bit more full and discerete to my ears, and I sensed a greater dynamic range within the sound stage. Make no mistake though, you can't go wrong with either track. These are some of the best sound mixes I have heard on a DVD in a long, long time.

English closed captioning is included, as well as subtitles in English, French and Spanish.

 

There's not much, but all three features are worth checking out.

The main supplement here is the Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Producer/Director Mel Gibson and Co-Writer/Co-Producer Farhad Safinia. This is a pretty good and well-rounded commentary, and the two play well off one another and share a lot of information about the movie. Safinia really puts the film in a historical context and is quite detail oriented, but also aids Gibson when speaking about more of the technical details of the shoot. The duo also talk about their preparation in making the film, and also their writing process (with that though, they point out some obvious character motivation, but I really didn't mind). Gibson's usual jokey persona is featured on the track, though he seems a bit subdued (I wonder if he's watching his words due to all the public media scrutiny?). This track may be a bit dry for the more casual fan of the film, but if you're fascinated in what Gibson and Safinia have pulled off, then it's a good investment of your time.

There's also a 39-second Deleted Scene (in non-anamorphic widescreen) with Optional Commentary from Gibson and Safinia. The scene involves an injured deer, and not much else. What I gathered from the duo's comments is that despite the scene's nice aesthetics, the scene wasn't substantial enough. I doubt the 39 seconds in the movie would have hurt it.

Finally, we have Becoming Mayan: Creating Apocalypto. Lasting around 25 minutes and presented in anamorphic widescreen, this featurette actually has chapter stops and gives a really nice overview in creating the ancient Mayan world for the film. The film's location shooting is covered, getting extras prepared, constructing the sets, making the costumes, the complex makeup schemes and the creation of the Mayan weapons. Gibson and Safinia are the main talking heads, and speak with much enthusiasm, but we also hear from a few of the film's artisans and production people, such as makeup artist Vittorio Sodano, weapons master Simon Atherton and unit production manager Anna Roth. I only with this piece was longer - it's pretty fascinating to see such a big and ambitious production come together. A must watch.

Hmm, I wonder if we can expect some kind of special edition in the future? (And if so, hopefully the film's theatrical trailer will be included - where there's that freeze frame of Gibson looking nuts with his cast.)

 

Despite all the negative publicity that has overshadowed Mel Gibson in the past year, there is no denying that he is an intriguing and exciting filmmaker - and "Apocalypto" only further cements his reputation behind the camera. The DVD is a grand representation of Gibson's vision: a stunning transfer, booming 5.1 mixes and a few extras that trace the film's development in strong detail. When it comes to an action-packed visual feast, "Apocalypto" is worth a look.