Directed by: Terrrence Malick
Starring: Colin Farrell, Q'Orianka
Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer,
Released by: New Line Cinema
Short: A drawn-out, mind-numbingly dull
look at the relationship between an Algonquian
princess and the British Captain John Smith.
Amount of Grass Can Make This Story Interesting
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.
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.
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.