Thursday, December 22, 2005

Apocalypto (2006)

Apocalypto (2006) [dir. Mel Gibson]
Review based on the first teaser trailer, released in mid-December 2005

Preview review
Okay here's the deal: Mel Gibson has a new film in the mill. For some reason the discovery and early days of the Western Hemisphere are all the rage, and young Mel just figured out he'd like to jump on the bandwagon too. At least he's wary enough to pick an underutilized tribal community for his plot and a little used part of the world as a setting. And while he might have used a possibly more ancient Mayan dialect (Lacandona is still spoken by an ever-dwindling number of folks in Chiapas) he at least settled for the modern day dialect in the fictional setting he's using -- Yucatec in the Peninsula. Although that sure looks the Palace at Palenque flitting amongst all the poorly CGed landscapes.

We're here today though only to muse on the teaser -- not even the full-blown trailer that will eventually issue from this spawning. And why, you might ask? Because like so many fine films before it, the teaser already exposes some egregious errors, my favorite biotargets as it were, and some other iffiness of the kind that will likely make the film a laughing stock among certain patrons. Not that anyone of any import reads me, but there is still time Mel, time to make amends!

First, one has to actually care i suppose, but as is the purpose of my Biospoilers Project, these warnings come in knowing that an awful lot more people than you would ever suspect are bothered by mistakes in the biological realm of picture-making. Would someone, for instance, drop a 1971 Challenger R/T into a film about the Roaring 20's? Only, if you're looking for a Lemonade Joe-style flop.

So, why then would someone use an Old-World Monkey, a species of guenon, in a movie with a centuries-ago New World location?

Worse is the one they tried to pull off, likely quite well knowing it wasn't right -- in the quick scene of a "black panther" leaping at the camera.

Well, "black panthers" are known from the New World, indeed ranging from the southern U.S. prior to the 20th century, and still range through Mexico down into southern South America. But "black panthers" are not a species of large cat, but a mutation known as a melano, a beast in which there is a saturation of black pigment (it is sorta the opposite of an albino -- for a full explanation of the biology of these forms see my essay here).

The large cat that occupies this range is the Jaguar (Panthera onca). Unfortunately the cat used in the film (likely because it was the only trained one they could find) is an African Leopard (Panthera pardus), which also has these melano mutations known as "black panthers". Too bad for accuracy that they resorted to this.

In any case, i'm whetting my appetite for the film now -- but i'm more interested in what other biospoilers i can find than in whether the film represents anything close to reality.

Trailer at Official Site
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