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The New World Movie Poster

The New World

Genre: Adventure/Drama
Rated: PG-13
Directed by
: Terrrence Malick
Starring: Colin Farrell, Q'Orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer, August Schellenberg
Released by: New Line Cinema

In Short: A drawn-out, mind-numbingly dull look at the relationship between an Algonquian princess and the British Captain John Smith.

A Dull World
No Amount of Grass Can Make This Story Interesting
By Veronica Marian

A two-and-a-half-hour film is a big time commitment, and there are certain expectations that it should meet. These might include an interesting storyline, relatively engaging dialogue, characters we feel some sort of connection to and a final resolve. “The New World,” unfortunately, falls much too short in all of these elementary categories.

It's hard to believe that a movie this long has such little dialogue in it; it's even harder to believe that much of the sparse talking occurs as repetitious voiceovers. For comedic relief, perhaps, after almost no substantial verbal interaction between Pocahontas and John Smith, the two begin fluid conversations in perfect English, despite the fact that when they first meet neither speaks a word of the other’s language. The infuriating lack of dialogue is made even more aggravating by James Horner's constantly tinkling piano. Having composed for "Titanic," "A Beautiful Mind," "Braveheart" and countless other musically-endowed films, this time Horner’s anachronistic score just draws attention to the virtual inaction onscreen.

Terrence Malick succeeds at showing the natural beauty of 1606 Virginia, but the trite shots of swaying tall grass, raindrops pitter-pattering into the river and the same images of Pocahontas frolicking in said grass over and over again leave us bored and counting down the remaining hundred minutes. Thirteen-year old Q'Orianka Kilcher is quite endearing as the Indian princess, and captures well the fresh, unspoiled beauty of a world previously untouched by Western hands. While we don't recall any point in the movie where we are told that her name is indeed Pocahontas, we do remember her short, saccharine off-screen monologues about her love for John Smith (Colin Farrell). Once scruffy but appealing, in “The New World” Farrell is brooding, greasy and uninteresting.

Then there is John Rolfe (Christian Bale), the perfect British gentleman who ultimately marries and brings Pocahontas to England where she is, for a short while, the exotic belle of the ball. While Bale is usually a great actor, the range he achieves in this film is close to minimal. He seems to ask for our sympathy but it is hard to give it to so bland a character. Of all the players in this sad drama, it is the newcomer Kilcher who shines, leaving the weathered actors to keep on weathering away.

Perhaps what Malick sacrificed in dialogue and character development, he tried to make up for in visuals. Each frame brings us something that might be interesting to look at (the elaborate make-up of the Algonquian Indians, the lush landscapes) but these are so overemphasized that they become burdensome and distracting. In the end, we didn't learn much about Pocahontas (the famous scene where she saves Smith from death is a blip; turn your head for a second and you might miss it) or her people. Nor did we learn much about life in the New World.

(Updated 01/21/08 NJ)

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