If you strip away the setting and cultural style, APOCALYPTO is nothing more than a hardcore action film (with lots and lots of gore). The first half consists of the lead protagonist and others being captured and taken to the Mayan city, while the second half is essentially a lengthy chase sequence. Then comes the pivotal moment where our hero fights back, setting the stage for ridiculous action set pieces that begin to rival THE MATRIX in terms of believability. As outlandish as it all is though, it's executed in such an exciting and brutal fashion that you can't help but be captivated by what's on screen.
It's almost nauseating how many threats the characters encounter. They contend with jaguars, arrows, spears, poison darts, wild boars, quick sand, knives, swarms of wasps, giant waterfalls, venomous snakes, and most dangerous of all, each other. I sort of assumed that was the whole point of the film, that the civilization itself would be the cause of its own destruction. Instead, this idea is quickly introduced and then never expanded on, leaving us to once again simply focus on our hero's trek back to his family. He's just about the only character, along with maybe one other, that's developed in any significant way. The rest of screen time is devoted to the sneering evil savages who want the protagonist dead. But hey, with their strange markings and unique outfits, at least they look complex.
Maybe Gibson thought we could figure out for ourselves the powerful reality/meaning behind this world and the people who populate it. Or maybe he thought if he threw enough action and gore our way, we'd be too busy to notice how shallow the film is under the foreign language and artistic appeal. Whatever the case, APOCALYPTO still makes for a rousing (and somehow grotesquely beautiful) action epic. It's just too bad that, when all is said and done, there isn't more substance to be found.
Audio Commentary (with writer/director/producer Mel Gibson and writer/producer Farhad Safinia): This laidback track features a few interesting moments of insight, but it's pretty basic for a movie as meticulously constructed as this one.
Becoming Mayan (25:00): While interesting, this featurette is much like the commentary in that's it's also surprisingly straight-forward. There's information on location scouting, make-up, set building, and plenty more. Also included are interviews with Gibson and others.
There is also a very brief Deleted Scene (0:38) that comes with optional commentary.