THE NEW WORLD
** (out of 5)
January 20, 2006
Colin Farrell as JOHN SMITH
Q’Orianka Kilcher as POCAHONTAS
Christopher Plummer as CAPTAIN NEWPORT
Christian Bale as JOHN ROLFE
Michael Greyeyes as RUPWEW
August Schellenberg as CHIEF POWHATAN
Wes Studi as OPECHANCANOUGH
David Thewlis as CAPTAIN WINGFIELD
Studio: New Line Cinema
Directed by: Terrence Malick
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
It is impossible to make a realistic film about the Native Americans nowadays. Due to the overwhelming weight of political correctness, you aren’t allowed to show any negatives about their society. You can’t talk about blood feuds. You can’t talk about the fact most individuals did not live into their 30s because they died in war or of disease. You can’t talk even acknowledge the fact that they were, by definition, a stone-age culture.
So instead, Hollywood portrays the Native Americans as grossly unrealistic stereotypes of the noble savage. I won’t go into the rewriting of North American history that is done nowadays in textbooks on in the media, but it is staggering to say the least.
When I first heard that Terrence Malick’s latest film “The New World” was going to tackle the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, I figured it would be a morass of PC preaching with long, boring, drawn-out scenes. I was not disappointed.
“The New World,” quite simply is a mess. It portrays the Native Americans encountered by the Europeans in Virginia as wimpy, idiot savants who suddenly become geniuses in the middle of the film when the colonists are starving. There’s no filth in their society. No death. No disease. It’s a veritable paradise. Indeed, the character of Pocahontas has shapely smooth legs and shaved armpits. It’s as if the filmmakers weren’t setting out to right the wrongs of the Disney cartoon, but rather to reinforce them and add a little more violence.
The Europeans are not much more to be desired. Colin Farrell plays the legendary John Smith as if he’s stepped out of a drunken stupor (which may not necessarily be inaccurate when it comes to the actor involved). Other colonists are so miraculously stupid that they can’t hunt, can’t pick food off of trees or pluck fish from the water. I swear, if the castaways on “Lost” can survive, why can’t these guys?
I’m not even going to start with the historical problems this film has. Ultimately, it romanticizes the relationship between Pocahontas and John Smith to a ridiculous level. In reality, the story of her falling on Smith to save him from death isn’t even truth. Smith conveniently added that bit to the tale on his second retelling, presumably to spice things up. Instead, it appears that Pocahontas was more of a bargaining chip to the settlers than a participant in a storybook romance.
There is scant dialogue in the film, and Farrell speaks barely a line on screen. Instead, there’s heaps of pretentious poetic narration that doesn’t even augment the story. Moreover, this narration comes from several different characters, serving only to confuse and/or bore the audience.
All of this is held together with some of the most haphazard editing I’ve seen in a major release. Entire scenes that don’t exist are given flashbacks, and random shots seem to be dropped in the narrative for no apparent reason.
Word has it that director Malick pulled the film from distribution right after Christmas in order to cut it down by 17 minutes. If only he had cut out the other 133 as well.