Movie Review Example on Apocalypto: Mayan Kingdom in Crisis (1502s)

Paper Type:  Movie review
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1865 Words
Date:  2023-10-14


The film, Apocalypto, revolves around the Mayan kingdom of the Yucatán, in the republic Mexico set in the 1502s. During this period, the foundations of the administration system and the empire are at the heights of crumbling. The people of the kingdom holds on to the belief that the gods are hungry as a result of the failures of the people to honor and worship the Supreme Being. Therefore, to avoid the anger of the gods, leaders propose the construction of more worship places as well as the offering of sacrifices to avoid the death of plants and animals. The main character in the film, Jaguar Paw, played by Rudy Youngblood, is portrayed as a peace-loving hunter hailing from the remote tribe. The human sacrifice missions drive the leaders from Mayan into this remote tribe where they orchestrate a raid and capture Jaguar Paw and his entire kin and village. He is amongst the group scheduled for the cleansing and sacrificial ritual. Driven by the desire to get back to his pregnant wife and son, Jaguar Paw organizes a daring escape. The paper offers a critical examination and description of the escape scene in the film, which is amongst the most notable and essential part of the fiction.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Analysis of the Escape Scene

The escape scene in Apocalypto serves as one of the most interesting, realistic, and full of tension in the film. It follows the scene in which the leaders sacrifice two villagers. Jaguar Paw and the rest survive the sacrificial ritual following a solar eclipse that disrupts the process and which the religious leaders describe as a bad omen and a sign of satisfaction from the gods. The film strategically employs the use of the listening effects right from the moment the knife poses on Jaguar Paw, who was waiting to be sacrificed. The pause by the executioner accompanies the sound effects of a mixture of tension and hope. Additionally, the darkness that fell during the noon clearly rhymes with the sound effects portrayed in the film.

Mise en Scene in Apocalypto

One of the critical components of Mise En Scène is the composition, which entails the framing of the film shots. It involves the construction and visualization of the film through illustrations and graphical designs. Framing, composition, and the movement of the camera in the Apocalypto illustrates the excellent film making design. The director for the film effectively uses the steady and traditional shootings that combine the wide, medium, and single shots, as well as the close-ups. A critical examination of the film, particularly the escape scene, reveals that the director aims at letting the narration take the lead as opposed to the style. Therefore, he does not want the composition to conflict with the dialogue and actions in the film. Kinetic and frenetic shots are also evident in the film, especially at the intersection point of the sacrifice and the escaping scenes. It appears like the film-maker used hand-held and Steadicam when making the shots. The escape scene is more interesting due to the fluidity and active tale of the creation. In this scene, the director and characters express the style and story through equal measures.

The composition of the escape scene entails the Zero Wolfs, his son and hunting companions, Jaguar Paw, and the remnants of the villagers who survived the sacrificial ritual. The producer and director distinguish Jaguar Paw and his crew from the Zero Wolf’s by the use of costumes, hairstyles, mode of dressing, and artifacts. The prisoners’ hairs and makeup are ruggedly signifying the horrific experience that they go through. Zero Wolf and his people dress in the traditional hunting costumes while the prisoners have pants covering the private parts and painted green (Tele, 2017). The production design is an essential component of the film. Apocalypto is a film rich in its unique visual merits that partly arises from the setting that it captures in the frame of the shot. The film-makers ensure that the film exists in the period showcasing believable and somehow real backdrops. The use of traditional weapons and the maize farm in the scene portraying the rural fields denotes the ancient Mexican setting. The direction of the art in the film, its scenery, and now the backdrops that accords Apocalypto the sense of realism in this scene. It offers the three-dimensional quality essential in the setting of films. The production of Apocalypto uses the natural lighting determined by the location, the setting, and the production design. The escape scene in the film does not have profound lighting to enhance its aesthetic feature due to the ancient set. It is worth noting that this particular scene is taking place in broad daylight, thus no dull atmosphere (Tele, 2017).

Costuming is one of the very most important part in the making of the Apocalypto. The film uses elaborate, artistic, and ancient-inspired costumes of the Mayan art and the Aztec rulers and warriors. The historically-inspired costuming in the film resonate with the ancient empire rulers of the Mayan traditions. The Aztec and Hispanic cultural clothing fixes the film, and the scene into its setting (Tele, 2017). The film would have lacked the same visual impact if the two conflicting sides of Jaguar Paw and Zero Wolf had the same costumes. Therefore, the painting of the prisoners with the color green in the escape scene helps viewers to follow through and identify the characters. The choice of the costume in the film is an appropriate way to add aesthetic value and elevate the mood of Mise En Scène. Besides costuming, hair and makeup are critically essential in the scene of the film as they echo the physical looks and feelings of the Mayan traditions in the 1500s (Tele, 2017). Zero Wolf’s warriors have the hair and makeups that portrays the theatrics and warrior-like appearance.

The Editing Techniques Used in the Apocalypto Escape Scene

Film editing techniques are an essential part of the film-making process. Numerous of these techniques are available in the escape scene of Apocalypto. These techniques include the cut, continuity editing, establishing shots, fade, reverse, and montage, among others. The escape scene primarily employs the many types of cutting techniques. Rough cut, match cut, and montage are highly used in the transition from one scene to another. For instance, the director transitions from the sacrificial scene to the escape scene through the use of the rough cut. Sequence and reverse shots are also vital in the escape scene.

The Narrative of the Scene

The narration of a film, generally, refers to the set of the representational, structural, and discursive points that are vital in the communication of the themes of the fictional creation. Apocalypto presents the story of the Mayan community and traditions in 1500 through what seems more of a text, piece, or collection and organization of the narrative system. The narration takes distinct stylistic paths. The escape scene, despite being the focal point of discussion, does not have many tools such as the voice-over narrators. Unlike other fictional action thriller and adventure films, Apocalypto does not have the first-person narrative element. Most of the actions and the story of the film becomes clear to the viewers through the efforts of the characters.

The story of the film, as stated earlier, revolves around the historical adventures of the Mayan people of Mexico in the 1500s. The film explores the sufferings of the farming kingdom that sees the death of their plants and animals to the result of their failures to honor the gods. They thus resort to offering human sufferings by kidnapping neighboring hunting communities in the nearby villages. The family of Jaguar Paw is amongst the many villagers who suffer this attack. He gets separated from his pregnant wife and son and is scheduled for sacrifice. Luckily, Jaguar Paw and a few others narrowly escape the sacrificial attempts. Nonetheless, Zero Wolf, his son, and fellow warriors decide to use the prisoners as training “animals” promising freedom to whoever makes it alive and escapes. Jaguar Paw survives this, experiences numerous challenging environments in his attempts to re-unit with the family, and finally makes it back to the village.

The escape scene in the film is the focus of the paper. It follows the execution and sacrifice of two of the prisoners. Jaguar Paw escapes death narrowly after he had already been lain ready to be sacrificed to the gods. The interception of the solar eclipse induces confusion leading to the cancelation of the event. The Mayans believe that the occurrence of the eclipse is an indication that the gods are pleased, and any farther sacrifice would lead to bad omens. The king spares Jaguar Paw and the other prisoners’ lives, who then become the target for Zero Wolf and his warriors. The first two men try their luck, but they never made it into the maize field and secured their freedom.

Jaguar Paw and his father become the next targets for the warriors. They try their best, but they both got hit. His father dies, but Jaguar Paw succeeds in getting into the cornfield after murdering Cut Rock, who happens to be Zero Wolf’s son. Filled with rage and anger, Zero Wolf and the warriors resort to hunting Jaguar Paw to avenge the death of Cut Rock (Tele, 2017). The warriors throw spears and pelting arrows as they hunt for him in the forest. He runs to safety amidst the sufferings that he has to endure as a result of the arrow that had hit him. He survives into the jungle while Zero Wolf, accompanied by the other eight comrades and warriors, organize a chase and hunting party.

Jaguar Paw manages to escape the fierce and vengeful warriors as he gets back into the more familiar and native jungle. He has the upper hand and the advantage over his pursuers. Therefore, Jaguar Paw taunts and kills them one after another as he still tries to run farther into his native land. The eight pack of hunters that was ones fierce and vengeful and comprised of Zero Wolf, the Middle Eye, and the others reduce slowly as Jaguar Paw extend his wrath. Gradually, he drops one after another by the use of traps and hunting techniques. Seemingly, the gods are on his side as some of the warriors die out of the injuries caused by natural hazards. The scene strategically brings together numerous characters under one setting (Tele, 2017).


In conclusion, the escape scene is one of the most vital parts of the film, Apocalypto. It encompasses all the elements of the film-making process. The film tactfully adheres to the elements of mise-en-scene including, composition, film texture, the lighting, and air conditioning, consumes, production design, and hair and makeups, among others. An examination of the film reveals the utilization of the most recent film editing techniques, particularly through shooting and cutting techniques. The escape scene plays a significant role in the development of characters, themes, and the whole narration.


Tele., S.S. (2017, March 1). Apocalypto Escape Scene from the Damior Peoples. Retrieved on July 21, 2020, from,

Cite this page

Movie Review Example on Apocalypto: Mayan Kingdom in Crisis (1502s). (2023, Oct 14). Retrieved from

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience and 25% off!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism