By Hipolito Munoz Navarrete
Sometimes I get lucky. I was teaching in Santa Ana, Ca, and as I was getting settled for
the one-hour traffic horror that was awaiting me, I saw a pop-up for The Frida Cinema’s
screening of “Apocalypse Now: The Final Cut” in the theater! I immediately circled back
to find a place where I could have a cup of coffee and wait for the 7 pm screening. 3
hours later, as the first Doors, The End, pulled us into melancholy, I immediately
experienced the unexpected, a somber thrill that I was about to be all up in my feelings
for almost three hours.
I am a fan of the Marvel and DC films. I have watched all of them several times trying to
connect the stories as they were supposedly designed. I have watched and read the
Harry Potter books and am positive about the thoughtfulness that those creatives
place while they produce those stories. They are, at times, spectacular, which I was
reminded by Apocalypse Now, that such spectacles, maybe a distraction to hide that
there is no real story, that, unlike Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece, those stories are
designed mostly to bring us to a seat and to sell us to pay for the moment.
In Apocalypse Now, the story of the madness that engulfs people during war is crafted
in such a way that from the opening scene we are brought into a world that if we do
not adjust ourselves and like Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen), try to stay
connected to our humanity, we will not only accept the madness of Colonel Walter
Kurtz (Marlon Brando) but we will celebrate it.
Marvel and DC stories build up emotions to a point in which they must be extremely
aggressive physical fights where good and evil will show their capacity for violence,
one for destruction and one for salvation. Good and Evil are clear. Good and Evil in
Apocalypse Now is intertwined. In order for Captain Willard to accomplish his mission,
he must accept the dark part of his soul, a part that does understand the reasons why
Colonel Kurtz is doing what he is doing. This is an admirable reminder of what is an
attempt at selling a story to a market and entrusting a story to an audience.
Watching the anomaly and unraveling of the riverboat patrol crew who is charged with
taking the younger officer to collect the bill anchors us on the ride. By the time we got
to the destination, I was also walking on the edge of a razor. What the Colonel was
doing made sense until the one sane person alive from the crew, Chef, recoiled at the
evil I was letting slide.
The elegance of “Apocalypse Now” is in how, as the story unfolds, we begin to
understand evil and begin to become its accomplices because of the way it makes us
feel, powerful because of our capacity for violence. It’s a masterclass for audiences