I saw the movie a couple week s ago.
I know nothing of Mayan history, or any of the actualities implied by the setting of the drama. I generally don't go to fictional movies to get facts about anything. So with this one all that stuff didn't matter to me. If I wanted to know about Mayan history or what has been presumed about it from the evidence at hand, I would read a book.
In the instance of Apocalypto I think that Mel Gibson inadvertently invited scrutiny into the historical accuracy of his movie because of some other things he has been up to in the past few years. First he made the Christ movie, which I have yet to see, and then there is his recent drunk driving arrest with his idiotic comments about The Jews. I think the drunken arrest comments create further curiosity into what he believes, his notions, about other cultures. The Christ movie, attended by legions of American Christians was taken by them and for all I know promoted my Gibson as a realistic factual account of historical events. The downside of enormous artistic entertainment success, such as Gibson's with the Christ movie, is that all other work is then associated with it in the simple minds of the media and the general public. Success is now and has always been a limiting factor in what the artist can do from there on in the eyes of general public.
I'm not a Mel Gibson partisan. I have never seen any of the cop movies with Danny Glover. I saw Braveheart when it first came out years ago and remember sort of shrugging afterward. It didn't move me.
That said and with that in mind I'm here to tell you that I really enjoyed Apocalypto. It plays as a sort of classic adventure movie melodrama not at all as a historic piece. To me it was more like an old Tarzan movie or some such. Any number of classic in-the-wild adventure movie clichés are exploited in the telling of a very simple story. I could list them, but I wouldn't want to spoil the fun you might have in watching them unfold before you eyes. It is a really well made action movie. There is a little bit of dialogue in the exposition scenes and then it is now stop action in a virtual silent movie. The action elements exploited go back to the silent era. We have the noble hero that we pull for throughout the melodrama, we have the broadly drawn mean for no practically reason villain tormenting out hero unjustly. We have the beautiful damsel in distress practically tied to the railroad track who simply must be rescued by the hero in time before certain death. We have the most outrageous reprieve from death at the very last minute, which saves the hero, than I have ever seen it a movie. It's all a rather ridiculous melodramatic cartoon and yet the whole thing is carried off with such artful filmmaking that I was able to suspend disbelief. Gibson had me on the edge of my seat throughout the to 2hr 10 min running time.
It is an excellent escapist (indeed) adventure movie. It pushes some very basic primal human buttons which serve to draw the viewer into the story. It is beautifully photographed, directed, and acted. Go see it on the big screen.
If you are looking for a history lesson in Mayan culture. Skip it.