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Mel Gibson vs Religion: Legend or Loser? Part I
Plucked from very obscurity in a low budget independent movie entitled Mad Max, Mel was a down and out school dropout heading for the skids in a deeply sad road ending at a dead end. Mel had no purpose, no faith and no drive. Only anger existed and if it weren’t for his sister to encourage give acting a chance, he would more than likely be in jail now, or dead!
Mel's career took off in the great American dream fashion by starring in the critically acclaimed post apocalyptic world of Mad Max filmed back in the place he grew up, Australia, and spawning two successful sequels. This movie gave Mel some much needed credibility, and excellent exposure to a man that could star in a picture with very little experience and give an emotional performance.
Moving to American cinema to star in one of the most well loved 80's classics, Lethal Weapon, with again 3 more sequels, Mel had arrived and showed he knows pain!
After starring in a few 80's movies such as Gallipoli, The year of living dangerously, Tequila Sunrise, and 90's movies such as Forever Young, Bird on a Wire and Maverick. Mel decided to do something different. After showing a very keen interest in directing as well as receiving encouragement from the studio on numerous occasions, Mel would sit with the director of all his projects every chance he could get, to soak in the allure of making a movie from the other side. This struck a degree of inspiration the world had never seen. He then set out to direct his first movie "The Man Without a Face" in 1993, he set his sights much higher after this.
After nearly 20 years in the limelight, Mel worked on an ambitious project that at the time was deemed unfeasible and far too ambitious for an "actor" to do on his own. Mel decided to embark on a tremendous story of love, honour and freedom, in the magnificent;
Braveheart set a very large precedence in movie making and captured 4 generations of a country in one film, set aside all ignorance held by the rest of the world when it comes to Scotland, with some key moments being recreated on film, and a large portion created for entertainment purposes.
Mel took a deeply profound story and took it to its ghostly heights, Mel co- wrote, starred in and directed the multi Academy Award winning story of William Wallace, caught by the English and murdered in front of his own people. They invaded Scotland like the rest of the world and tried to take control and their women. This movie earned the man of the hour with best director and best picture for only his second film! In many ways, Braveheart captured what Scotland has never been able to express, a feeling that was never realised until this was seen by millions. A movie that poured Scotland's blue blooded heart over the English flag in a deep and moving portrayal of misunderstanding, stubbornness, religion, pain, fear and hatred.
The battle scenes were a thing of meticulous beauty and one of a kind realistic approach that really engulfed the audience into feeling in the action, live and in person with a notion for sitting on the edge of your seat.
Mel's breathtaking approach to his first major motion picture was an incredible feat to be admired, with great location scouting, beautiful music that effortlessly lingers in your ears and heart that honours the sentiment of the entire movie. Braveheart is really special, it is made with love and compassion for a nation that just never got a chance. This is a classic, at over 3 hours, it is an emotional ride of betrayal, love, and an early insight into capitalism and greed that is fully captured in its simplest form, ruling the land.
Supposedly, this was the first in a long list of historical movies to be made over the next 15 years. And it is even rumoured, that Braveheart inspired Ridley Scott to direct Gladiator.
Passion of the Christ
Mel starred in numerous films after Braveheart, including Conspiracy Theory, Ransom and Payback, as well as Lethal Weapon 4 starring Jet Li, What women want and the American version of Braveheart, "The Patriot", We were soldiers and signs. All of this was to personally fund his own project, one that would never be forgotten. A film that was originally pitched to be in its entirety in ancient unspoken Aramaic and Latin, without subtitles. The language that Christ himself spoke. The movie is based on of course the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. The story is one of the oldest stories in the world, cut deep into the beliefs of Catholic Mel Gibson himself, and the star Jim Caviezel, who both assured each other to create a realistic retelling of the undeniable struggle between good and evil, and the unreasonable, with once again an absolute masterpiece. Produced, funded, written and directed by Mel Gibson himself, this was a huge amount of work he had invited in, and he went straight to it with his own passion for film and religion.
Mel realised the only way to make this movie work, was to be as close to the edge as possible. And that he did, with the most monstrous scenes of human torture ever put to a commercial cinematic experience, with no holds barred in a bid to show what Christ went through for our sins, and what better way than to show the extended version. Mel reportedly lengthened the torture scenes due to the original not making the audience flinch enough. He wanted people to look away in disgust and loath the Romans who could do that to another human being. He pushed the envelope and very almost got his movie banned from ever being seen by the public unless he toned it down.
The movie received criticism worldwide for the apparent ulterior motives of Mel, when the film was said to be as accurate to the bible as possible and there was no intended message in place. People had accused Mel of subliminally feeding his views on religion and Jewish people in general to those that paid to see his work. The film itself was criticised for being too violent and was an 18 rated movie, and has since become the most successful 18 rated or 'R' rated movie of all time, and grossing over half a billion Dollars in revenue, making this a hugely successful piece of controversy, after being criticised from all angles it still hit the top spot in the year of 2004. But this film marks a great pride shown from Mel, from his emotionally disturbed portrayal of Martin Riggs in Lethal weapon, or his sensitive side in Forever Young, and his comedic sides from Chicken Run and Maverick, this man has feeling like no other. Only directing 3 movies and 2 of them were collectively nominated for 6 Academy Awards, not bad for a guy that was at best going to jail in his youth.
More next week
This is the end of part I. There will be another part to discuss Mel's short comings in recent years, his his and lows, as well as his return to cinema. Please comment below with any thoughts you may have on Mel and his career so far.
See you all next week!
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