The New World, Should Have Stuck With the Old One

“The New World”, starring Colin Ferrell and Q’Orianka Kilcher, tells a story about John Smith’s landing in America and his subsequent romance with Pocahontas while the English desperately tried to survive. I say “a” story and not “the” story because the film didn’t seem bound by any historical fact (like . . . Pocahontas was a preteen, John Smith was 40, the English kidnapped her as leverage to stop their war, her marriage to John Rolfe was a PR stunt to get more settlers to America, after her kidnapping the British chose not to return her to her people but used her as a “My Fair Lady”-esque example of the “noble savage,” taking her back to England (where she would contract the disease that would kill her) once again to promote the new colonies in America, etc etc).

The true story is interesting. And would make for a good movie. But I guess that takes away from the romance. The drama. Seems the movie’s writer and director, Terrence Malick, thought it would make better art to walk through fields for most of the movie (at least it certainly feels like most of the movie).

Watch as John Smith explores . . . a field. Pocahontas looks on. Wait, he discovers her. Now she can walk in the field with him. Awww . . . they’re looking at each other like they’re in love. Uh-oh. The Native Americans don’t like that they’re walking in that field together. Hmmm, the British don’t really either but they’re too emaciated by their own arrogance to do much about it. Awww . . . John Smith and Pocahontas are teaching each other words (and still looking at each other like they’re in love). So John Smith tools her around and scampers back to England after his fame for “saving” the colonies reaches the English. An interesting choice for a man who’s fallen in love with a Native American princess.

That’s ok. Now she can meet Batma—er . . . John Rolfe. Interesting, it seems that the Powhatan turned Pocahontas out because she was mingling with white people. She wasn’t kidnapped by the English to avert a war they were starting after all. I guess I (and the rest of history) was mistaken. Fair enough.

So Rolfe’s more reliable than Smith and they fall in love. Awww . . . they should go to that field—oh, there they go. I’m glad Malick skipped over the part about Rolfe refusing to wed Pocahontas until she turned her back on her culture and her heritage with all its pagan spirits and what-not in favor of the one true gospel of the one true savior, Jesus Christ. No more colors of the wind for her. Heh, the movie’s better without it anyway. I dunno, it might seem pretentious and we wouldn’t sympathize with Rolfe’s and Pocahontas’s plight as much.

Sadly, in England there are no fields for Pocahontas and Rolfe to walk through while looking at each other like they’re in love. Sucks to be them. Should’ve stayed in the Batcave, Rolfe.

In the end, “The New World” feels more like a 130 minute Obsession commercial than a cinematic adventure. Rent it if you’re an 18th century Romantic. And especially if you don’t know the real story of Pocahontas—that way the facts won’t get in the way of your movie-watching pleasure. 2 stars out of 5.


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