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Apocalypto (Blu-ray DVD)

Manufacturer: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided NewTechReview with a unit of this product for review.
Reviewed by Scott R. Garrigus
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The time period is around the early 1500s. The Mayan culture (although past its initial classic phase of existence) is emerging once again. Prophecies and superstitions are the norm and human sacrifice is all too real. In an effort to appease their gods, the Mayans look to dominate and destroy their surrounding lands and peoples. One tale tells of a young native named Jaguar Paw, who is captured by the Mayans and deemed to be sacrificed. But in a heroic effort, he escapes so that he may save his wife and son, as well as his entire way of life. This is the premise behind Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.

Fiction or Fact?
Apocalypto is an action-packed adventure that tries to put a human face on the mysterious Mayan culture by telling a simple but exciting story about love, sacrifice, and the will to survive. But as you watch this film, you have to keep in mind that Apocalypto is a movie. It is a fictional story, not a documentary. To his credit, Gibson does bring an authenticity to the film by casting unknowns, using the lush Mexican jungle as the backdrop and using the Mayan language for all the dialog. Those of you usually annoyed by subtitles have nothing to worry about here. Much of the character communication in the film is visual through facial and body gestures, which makes it seem even more authentic.

Many of the scenes, however, were purely speculative. Even Gibson admits that they had to take quite a bit of artistic license here since we really know very little of the Mayan culture. Scenes in the movie where tribe members would play cruel jokes on others and some of the human sacrifices would depict hearts being ripped from chests are not based on facts. Of course, whether these things really happened or not doesn’t matter. What matters is they add to the story and they make great visuals. Speaking of which, this film is not for the squeamish. There is a lot of blood and gore, which is made even more prevalent by the Blu-ray experience.

Apocalypto in Blu(-ray)
To say the sights and sounds of this movie are good would be an extraordinary understatement. Apocalypto in Blu-ray format is an extravagant feast for the eyes. The colorful costumes, lush jungle backgrounds, and the heart-racing action scenes are all spectacular. Of course, the same holds true for all the violence depicted in the film, which is why I mentioned it is not for the squeamish. We all know that the heads being chopped off and hearts being ripped from chests are just Hollywood effects, but you wouldn’t know it by just watching it here. Even the visually dark scenes of the film are engaging as they pull you in and add to the suspense.

The sounds in Apocalypto are equally stunning. Presented in 5.1 48 kHz, 24-bit uncompressed surround audio, the film score, sound effects, and ambience draw you into the story so that it seems like you are actually there. The sounds of the jungle transform your home theatre area into an environment that you have to hear to believe. And the audio accompanying the action scenes will not only have you sweating in your seat, but may get you into trouble with your neighbors so late-night viewings are not recommended.

What About Extras?
The only disappointing aspect of the Apocalypto disc is the lack of bonus features. Sure, you get the usual feature commentary, which features both Mel Gibson and Writer/Co-Producer Farhad Safinia providing their insight throughout the film. You also get the typical behind-the-scenes look with “Becoming Mayan: Making Apocalypto.” But that’s pretty much it. The one included deleted scene and the Movie Showcase features are nothing but fluff. Being a Blu-ray disc, I expected there to be more in the extras department... maybe a short documentary explaining Mayan culture and history; perhaps a virtual Mayan art gallery; things like that.

An Apocalypto Adventure
Despite the lack of extras, I can’t say enough great things about the film itself and its Blu-ray representation. The story, visuals, and sound are combined in a way that will keep you fully engrossed in the film from beginning to end. And the addition of high definition via Blu-ray makes the experience all the more entertaining. If you have the equipment to handle it, I dare say the Blu-ray version is even better than going out to the theatre. Apocalypto should be a definite addition to your movie collection.
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