Apocalypto

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Apocalypto is a film by Mel Gibson. Boy, is it ever a film by Mel Gibson.

Filmed entirely in the Yucatec Mayan language, it deals with a village of rainforest tribesmen who are attacked by an ambush of city-dwelling Mayans; many are captured for use as slaves, human sacrifices and target practice. One young captive, a hunter named Jaguar Paw, desperately tries to make his escape back to his pregnant wife and child, who are trapped in a well at the mercy of the elements.

This has been called The Chase movie to end all chase movies, done entirely on foot with all manner of obstacles on the way.

Tropes used in Apocalypto include:


  • Always a Bigger Fish: The powerful Mayan civilization is abusing the smaller groups of forest-dwelling natives to feed their own greed. At the end of the film the Europeans arrive.
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees: One Mexican newspaper criticised, amongst other things, the inclusion of a "black panther" as Misplaced Wildlife, guess they never heard of black jaguars.
    • Almost every known complaint about this movie is this. Yes, the Mayans did sacrifices too (though it's possible they adopted the practice only after being conquered by central Mexican peoples in ancient times). Yes, they had blue paint and used it to paint the sacrifice victims. Yes, while the Mayan civilization was way past their prime when the Europeans arrived and the biggest cities had been abandoned to the jungle by that time, the Mayans were not extinct (and still aren't), and the Spaniards did in fact find some smaller cities struggling for survival like the one that appears in the film.
  • ...And Show It to You: Aside from the obvious, Zero Wolf also talks about peeling off Jaguar Paw's skin and wearing it for him to see.
  • Annoying Arrows: Jaguar Paw gets pierced by an arrow through the abdomen, and we see what a horrific weapon a bow is. Yet he keeps on running like nothing happened, and the wound heals over time.
  • The Archer: Snake Ink, the most cold and intelligent of the slavers, is an awesome archer. At one point, he shoots an arrow into the sky and pierces a running man through the head.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Zero Wolf. It's hard to get more badass than that.
    • Jaguar Paw qualifies too.
  • Axe Crazy: Zero Wolf, the leader of the Holcane slavers and Big Bad of the film.
  • Badass Damsel: Seven, Jaguar Paw's wife. Pregnant AND trapped with her other young child in an underground cave. Whilst in said cave she helps stitch her son's injury, bashs in the skull of a rabid primate, and still manages to climb halfway up the cave to freedom. Sadly she falls, quickening her impending labor. When her contractions begin and the cave is filling with water her first instinct is to hoist her son onto her shoulders. Oh, and she also delivers her baby like this while being almost drowned herself.
  • Bad Boss: Zero Wolf starts out as a competent chieftain and a A Father to His Men, but after his son's tragic death, he degenerates into completely Axe Crazy behavior against everyone around him. During the obsessive hunt through the jungle for Jaguar Paw, the slavers are motivated by fear of their boss more than anything else.
  • Beat Still My Heart: The human sacrifices.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jaguar Paw returns in time, but 95% of the cast are dead, and then there's the Inferred Holocaust.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The Mayan religion. At one point Blunt prays to the Goddess of the Scaffold to free them from the "bad Mayans". The scaffold was where human remains were hung (at least in the Aztec faith...)
  • Break the Cutie: The village children being left behind.
  • Butt Monkey: Poor old Blunt.
  • California Doubling: Although they did film in Mexico, they picked Veracruz to double for Yucatan and the Caribbean, this is especially noticeable in the scenes on the beach.
  • Character Focus: From the point where Jaguar Paw escapes most of the other characters (except Seven) drop out of the story and it focuses all on Jaguar Paw running away from Zero Wolf, leading to a lot of instances of What Happened to the Mouse?
  • The Chase
  • Chekhov's Gun: The tapir trap.
  • Convenient Eclipse: The eclipse occurs just as Jaguar Paw is about to be sacrificed, and is taken as a sign that Kukulkan is satiated. The Mayan priests, however, would have known that the eclipse would happen. This is actually shown in the film; while the people are awed and frightened, the priests and king are serene. They timed the sacrifices to match up with the eclipse.
  • Costume Porn: The Mayan elite, particularly the high priests and the royal family.
  • Covers Always Lie: Middle Eye is not the main character of the film, or even the main villain, he's simply the one with most distinctive sillhouette.
  • Crapsack World: The film shows the Mayan civilization in a horrific state of decadence, scourged with drought, famine and diseases. We see fields of rotting crops, slaves burning down entire forests to make lime dust, young children dying of plague, and poor people who have been starved to the point of insanity. In response to all this, the priests are demanding more Human Sacrifices.
    • Interestingly enough, that was the whole point of the movie as based on the opening quote. It was showing how the Mayan civilization was already long since killing itself before the Europeans came over.
  • Creepy Child: The plague-stricken little girl who cryptically foretells the events of the rest of the film in an eerie voice.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Blunt, the big and gentle guy who is the village Butt Monkey at first.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Blunt comes across as a classic underdog-hero while Jaguar Paw acts like his comedic trickster-sidekick. Guess which one turns out to be the real hero of the story?
    • Which would have been effective if all the advertising and reviews for the movie didn't outright say that Jaguar Paw was the protagonist.
  • Deus Ex Machina: In the form of European missionaries.
  • Doomed Hometown: The village in the forest.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Jaguar Paw's nightmare in which he sees the refugee's leader with his heart in his hand and telling him to run.
  • Drowning Pit: Jaguar Paw's pregnant wife and child get trapped in one when the rain begins falling.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Holcane slavers capture all adults but spare the children, in an uncharacteristic gesture of mercy. This is an alteration of reality on the writers' part, as the Mayans enslaved and sometimes sacrificed children in Real Life too.
  • The Evil Empire: The Mayan city.
  • Everything's Worse with Bees: Worse for the pursuing slavers, anyway.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: During the chase through the jungle, many of the slavers fall to the nature's elements, these don't affect Jaguar Paw since he is a hunter in his element.
  • Gorn: The human sacrifices are especially horrific, when the victims are pulled over an altar and a priest cuts their chests open. And pulls out their dripping, beating hearts while they are still alive and kicking... which is Truth in Television. He then proceeds to decapitate them, then bounce their headless corpse down a long flight of stairs.
    • The bit when a slaver is being mauled by a jaguar is also shown in lovely detail. At one point you see her start to rip his face off.
  • Gosh Hornet: A rare live-action example, and not played for laughs. Jaguar Paw wraps a beehive in a massive leaf and chucks it at his pursuers. It works pretty well.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The fatally wounded Blunt gives Jaguar Paw a chance to escape by delaying Cut Rock.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Middle Eye's fatal head wound spurts quite a lot.
  • Hot Mom: Jaguar Paw's wife, Seven, who is probably quite young and heavily pregnant for the second time to boot.
  • Human Sacrifice: Lots and lots of them.
  • Hunter-Trapper: Jaguar Paw, his father, most of the village men. Jaguar Paw's ostensibly a master of it though.
  • Improbable Hairstyle: Like you wouldn't believe. That said, real-life Mayan hairstyles did get pretty elaborate, if their art is any indication. The Mayan noblewomen look especially cool, with their bodies painted green and massive headdresses made of jade snakes.
  • Inferred Holocaust: Probably the most optimistic interpretation of the ending.
  • Ironic Echo: "Almost".
    • To elaborate, while defending the village, Jaguar Paw almost kills Middle Eye before being overwhelmed by Zero Wolf, Middle Eye in mockery nicknames him "Almost" because of this. On their battle to the death, Middle Eye barely misses hitting Jaguar Paw's head which gives him the opening to deliver the decisive blow.
  • I Want Grandkids: Blunt's mother-in-law really, really does. Poor Butt Monkey Blunt, this is the day when the entire hunting party decides to play practical jokes on him regarding his impotence.
  • Just Before the End: If the title is any indication, not to mention the arrival of the Europeans.
  • Karmic Death: Zero Wolf, Snake Ink, Middle Eye.
  • Meaningful Echo: The speech made by Flint Sky about his forefathers and his descendants hunting in the forest, repeated in defiance by Jaguar Paw later on.
  • Meaningful Name: Jaguar Paw, the man who brings the jaguar.
  • Mayincatec: The religion seems mostly Aztec just to start. The Mayans didn't sacrifice humans to Kukulkan (their sun god).
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The creepy little girl's prophecy did come true...
  • Mindlink Mates: Jaguar Paw and Seven seem to be this. When Jaguar Paw has a minor Heroic BSOD after realizing he'll be sacrificed, Seven (who is trapped in the cave) physically shows the distress he is experiencing and reminds him to "come back" to her. When Blunt wishes Jaguar Paw to "journey well", Jaguar Paw responds with "I can't go now".
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: "I am Jaguar Paw, son of Flint Sky. My father hunted this forest before me. My name is Jaguar Paw. I am a hunter! This is my forest! And my sons will hunt it with their sons after I am gone."
  • National Geographic Nudity: Used realistically, and not too excessively.
  • New Meat: Cut Rock is the nervous newbie of the slaver band.
  • Nice Hat: Zero Wolf's helmet.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Flint Sky, despite his old age, kicks Middle Eye's ass when he's about to rape Blunt's wife. Flint Sky ends up being executed in front of his helpless son, and Middle Eye goes on to rape and murder the poor woman anyway.
  • Noble Savage: Played straight with Jaguar Paw and his village.
  • Oh Crap: The exact look on Jaguar Paw's face, when after climbing a tree to hide from his pursuers, he finds himself between a jaguar cub and its pissed off mother.
  • Outside Context Villain: The Mayincatec civilization to Jaguar Paw's forest-dwelling people.
    • And though their villainy is more inferred, the Europeans at the end.
  • Papa Wolf: Jaguar Paw and, of course, Zero Wolf.
  • Pet the Dog: Zero Wolf aiding, congratulating, and showing appreciation of his young son, then mourning him when Jaguar Paw kills him in self-defense.
  • Pink Mist: A rare non-gunshot related example.
  • Precision F-Strike: When one of the slavers is bitten by a snake, Middle Eye comments that "he's fucked". And he was.
  • Promotion to Parent: The eldest of the village children left behind calls after the captured adults that they needn't worry, because she will be mother to the others.
  • Rape, Pillage and Burn: The fate of the village.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Zero Wolf probably wouldn't have pursued Jaguar Paw so ruthlessly if Cut Rock hadn't been killed.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Kukulkan (Quetzalcoatl for the Aztecs) was probably the only one god in the Mesoamerican pantheon that did not demand human sacrifices and actually spoke against them.
  • Savage Piercings: Most of the tribesmen and women had piercings of some description. There were wooden and jade studs, as well as more complicated, ornate pieces. The Mayan king is completely covered in elaborate piercings.
  • Scenery Porn mixed with Scenery Gorn
  • Sergeant Rock: Zero Wolf -- this deteriorates considerably as the film goes on.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Zero Wolf and Snake Ink.
  • Shown Their Work: While the stuff about the Mayans is either completely wrong or up for debate, one gruesome fact the film did get right was the jaguar attack. Jaguars have the strongest jaws of any of the big cats, and unlike the rest which will usually go for the jugular, the jaguar will instead crush its prey's skull between its jaws as in the film.
    • Although the time period is wrong, the film did accurately portray the theories based on archeological evidence about the reasons the Mayan civilization collapsed, like the environmental degradation which led to famine and eventually social unrest.
    • It also shows the aristocracy unconscious of its problems or unwilling to find solutions. The archeologists also mentionned this political blindness during the long Mayan collapse.
    • Also a lot of research went into the costumes, piercings and tattoos of the characters. For example, Seven has the Mayan numeral 7 tattooed on her arm.
  • Stern Chase: The entire second half of the film.
  • Stuffed Into the Fridge: Blunt's wife Sky Flower, and Jaguar Paw's father Flint Sky.
  • Spiritual Successor: It could be regarded as this to The Passion of the Christ.
  • Translation Convention: Averted, like the aforementioned, the film is entirely spoken in an ancient language with subtitles.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Blunt is big-boned, but not unattractive; however, his wife is clearly meant to be the most beautiful girl in the village and everyone thinks she's too good for him.
  • Verbal Business Card: Already mentioned, his name is really Jaguar Paw and he is definitely a hunter.
  • Villainous Rescue: The mother jaguar who angrily chases Jaguar Paw for (unintentionally) threatening her cub certainly counts as one of these. She ends up attacking and ripping the face off one of his pursuers -- who was also trying to kill him.
    • The ending should also count since the Europeans unknowingly stopped Jaguar Paw's execution and will bring about the further collapse of the Mayans... before taking over themselves.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: When the women of the village are being sold as slaves, the oldest one is set free because there were no buyers. We last see her looking on as the men are marched off to be sacrificed.
    • Not to mention the surviving children from the villages, who follow behind the enslaved adults on their forced march until the adults cross a foaming river that the children cannot pass.