Angry Letter: ‘Apocalypto’

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Here is an e-mail I received in response to my review of “Apocalypto.” The writer did not sign his name, but his e-mail address says “xtopher.” Of course, when I replied to it, the e-mail bounced back as undeliverable, so perhaps it’s a fictitious address. Still, we’ll assume his name is Christopher, or Xtopher, if he prefers.

I read your review of ‘Apocalypto’ and wanted to let you know that the movie did quite well for it’s first weekend, $14.1 million from Friday to Sunday. [Even if $14.1 million really were a great opening-weekend score, which it isn’t, and even if financial success meant a film was good, which it doesn’t, it would still be a moot point for this e-mail, considering I LIKED the movie and gave it a B grade.]

I get the feeling you don’t like Mel Gibson at all. Am I wrong? I’m thinking your movie review is waaaay biased by your hatred toward the man. Are you Jewish? Did you hate him before the “tirade” earlier this year? Sounds like you hated Passion as well. Pretty obvoius that the way people went out to see Passion it was abviously well received by audiences. I suspect this one is pretty good too.

Let’s look at your personal attack comments:
It is the work of a crazy person, a raving lunatic whose name is Mel Gibson.
it’s hard not to become disgusted with Gibson’s arrogance and megalomania

As I said your waaaay too biased to review this movie.

Next!

Now, I have a policy of not debating the content of movies with people who have not seen them. But this letter is more about Mel Gibson than it is about “Apocalypto”; plus, Xtopher’s sentiments were echoed by a few people who posted comments on the review on this site. To wit:

Mercy, Eric. You seem to hate Mel like he does the Jews. I can’t help but compare you to mother who is excessively dissapointed in her boy’s work. Why all the references to what Mel likes? I did not see slapstick humor in the previous two movies you noted. Futhermore why on earth would you spend your opening lines on belittling the man instead of examining the movie. Why? I can’t help but think that this movie was reviewed with the blinders of prejudice on… Whatever they are. Okay, here it is. I dont know what to think of the movie because you just sound angry and nonprofessional. That’s all.

And:

Judge the film, not the character of the man who made the film, Eric. It is very obvious that you are biased and extremely emotional towards the man, hence, you lost you objectivity. Your feelings about Mel and your rational effort to analyze and critique the film are all mixed up. I find it unacceptable. You are consumed by the “mindless” words of a man in drunken stupor. So I feel sorry for you.

I guess I didn’t do a very good job expressing myself if this many readers got the wrong idea from the review, so I’ll elaborate now. Before seeing “Apocalypto,” I had no strong feelings about Mel Gibson one way or the other. I got that he was anti-Semitic from his now-legendary DUI incident, and I was amused by that whole trainwreck. But honestly and truly? No strong opinions about him. Just another celebrity, albeit a rather fascinating one in recent months.

And then I saw “Apocalypto.” My description of Gibson as crazy, arrogant, megalomaniacal, and loony is the result of THE MOVIE. It is not how I felt about him before; it’s how I felt about him after watching the movie, which makes it perfectly suitable fodder for a film review. Watching the movie, I thought: My goodness, this is the work of a crazy person! And I think if you watched “Apocalypto” without knowing who made it, you’d think the same thing: Whoever made this film is NUTS!

So “why all the references to what Mel likes”? Because it’s a review of a movie that Mel made, for crying out loud! Would it not be relevant in a review of a Michael Bay film to say that Michael Bay likes making stuff blow up? Or to mention in a Steven Spielberg review that Spielberg has often used fractured families and poor father-son relationships as fodder? When a director has themes that have recurred in his previous movies, it’s quite appropriate — expected, even — to point them out when they appear again. This is especially true if, as in “Apocalypto,” the director has wedged one of his favorite themes (i.e., slapstick comedy) into a place where it doesn’t fit, to the detriment of the movie.

No, there is no slapstick comedy in “Passion of the Christ” or “Braveheart,” nor did I say there was. (I cited those two films as examples of violence — and actually, it’s been too long since I saw “Braveheart” to recall if maybe there wasn’t some frat-brother type of jocularity among the Scottish in the early scenes.) But there is in many of the films Gibson has starred in, and he’s mentioned numerous times in interviews that he’s a fan of the Three Stooges and all that. I don’t think Gibson’s fondness for slapstick comedy is a matter of dispute, and since it’s so out-of-place in “Apocalypto,” it seemed useful to mention it. It’s in there not because it works, but because Gibson likes it.

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