A movie in 100 words: Apocalypse Now

No, I don’t watch a movie every weekend, but I did manage to eek out enough time last Friday for another screening.  Unfortunately, Netflix has yet to see fit to bestow Underworld: Awakening upon me.

Sad vampire/werewolf-less Puddin is sad.

Luckily, though, I thought, then, that this would be an excellent time to redress a serious and notable absence in my movie-viewing history. I’d recently put Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War epic, Apocalypse Now at the top of my queue, and you know what they say, “if you can’t watch the campy vampire movie you love, love the war movie you’re with”.


Anyway. Yes, yes. I know, I know.  There’s really no plausible excuse for having reach 39 years of age and not having seen this already.  Hell, it one of Those Movies You’re Supposed to See.  And I’ve got a pretty solid record of seeing Those Movies You’re Supposed to See.

Just don’t hold it against me, eh?

Oddly enough, having seen it now, I’m happy to concede that I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing it and not felt a terrible, cold emptiness eating away at me.

Apocalypse Now – I understand why people fawn all over this one and I believe there’s an interesting movie hidden somewhere inside Coppola’s work, like the toy in a box of Trix.  But, well, I’ll be damned if I found it.  Sure, it succeeded in portraying the insanity and hopelessness of war—especially in Vietnam—and explored darkness in the human soul, but does that need to take three hours?  Worse, I just never become invested in any of the characters. Ultimately, it felt like watching a stranger’s vacation slides from a nude beach.  That is, I was mostly bored and slightly uncomfortable.

I guess if you have three hours of your life to waste and enjoy being either bored, slightly uncomfortable, or both, this is the movie for you.  But I don’t think I’ll be seeing this on again.

No matter what the smell of napalm in the morning smells like.


6 thoughts on “A movie in 100 words: Apocalypse Now

  1. I find it interesting that you didn’t like this movie. I have not seen it and have ABSOLUTELY no plans to ever see it. Maybe because it was “our war” I just can’t make myself watch it. I don’t know if your dad has seen it either, tho most probably he has. I guess I’ll just blame it on having a husband with a draft #45 and an almost 2 year old son. Eventhough in the long run it was a good thing as the GI Bill paid for the remainder of your dad’s post graduate education, it’s a hard thing for me to discuss even all these years later. It did, however, give us our very own native (so to speak) Hoosier!!!! 🙂


  2. I did see it. Several times.. It’s a period piece that only works if you were almost directly involved. Clearly wouldn’t work for high school history classes…All Quiet on The Western Front…better for some of the same issues. Don’t put Deer Hunter or Platoon in your queue, it won’t help. Just remember “Charlie Don’t Surf” but now he does. Vietnam has become an ongoing trading partner. Seems to be about the culture not the ammo. So ” Charlie don’t surf” wins out over “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning” lol


    1. I’ve seen Platoon, and it left me just as uncomfortable (if not a bit more), but not quite as bored. I thought it was a bit more engaging, which I suspect is because Charlie Sheen’s character is easier to identify with Martin’s in Apocalypse Now. You’re absolutely right, though, I’m analyzing/criticizing it as a movie, but for so many, it’s a much more personal experience.


  3. Having seen Apocalypse Now many a time (obviously I really like it), I must say I disagree that it requires a direct period involvement, and I’ve never seen it as a war film, let alone about Vietnam. I don’t know if you’re familiar withe the source material (A Heart of Darkness, great 1900 book and 90’s film – worth checking out)? The movie is an extended metaphor, and basically a series of incidences showing various duality in nature (using war as strong motif in Coppola’s imagining of the story) and man. The narrative itself is a simple collapse from benevolence into malevolence for Sheen as he drifts deeper into the dark heart (of the river/jungle/himself). Make sure you watch Redux, also. It’s a more powerful version.
    Platoon very much is a war film, and is hard to judge against Apocalypse Now.


    1. Thanks, I appreciate the alternate point of view. I am familiar with A Heart of Darkness, but I’ve never read it. Now that I’m thinking about it, though, I should add it to my To-Be-Read list.

      Unfortunately, I think in this case, 100 words was too limiting to properly explain why I wasn’t impressed with Apocalypse Now. There’s certainly no arguing the Coppola succeeds in demonstrating that descent into darkness, but for some reason, I never became emotionally vested in Willard’s journey, internal or external. Perhaps, though, I’ll give it another shot at some point.


    2. Both Al & Jeremy are right, in my opinion. But to put my view in perspective, I was a child during most of Vietnam and it took up every ounce of national news at the time. It was also an active part of my daily life as my dad was in the navy and we were stationed on Guam. The naval air base there was used to launch almost all of the B-52s for the bombing raids, and our house was a 1/4 mile away from the airfield. As an 8year old I remember walking to the airfield and watching the big birds coming and going…just 100 yards away. No barriers to keep children from wandering onto the field.

      But back to the movie…it was a very sobering look at the madness of the Vietnam War when the nation was just starting to heal. This followed Deerhunter, which explored the after effects of the war…without really addressing them. Our veterans at the time were totally lost, the nation had no identity following the War and Watergate…and the shame that came from both. This movie illustrated the atrocities of war and exposed the American public to them, giving them a somewhat realistic representation of what it was like.

      It also allowed them to better understand the vets of the war and accept them back into society. By then it was too late for many of them, but this helped somewhat.

      Jeremy delves into the thoughts which may have been behind the movie, and hits upon several which have been hailed by many as the heart of it, and what Coppola was trying to say/do. I can tell you as an 18 year old kid when this came out I was both intrigued and terrified. Films centered around war really weren’t too graphic…until this movie.

      Platoon is an entirely different beast. It has much less sub-context to it as the nation had pretty much healed and put the Vietnam War behind it. So the impact wasn’t so much the same outside of the realism of actual combat. It was a predecessor to Saving Private Ryan in the authentic depiction of what combat was like.

      I’d say that you should do what Jeremy suggested, and watch Redux. And maybe read some critical analysis of AN. Then watch it again…and again. Kidding!


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