The story of Pocahontas just isn’t interesting. There’s nothing about this pseudo-historical tale about a young woman who became civilized that attracts it to me. With “The New World,” there’s no new angle presented to the audience, no new exploration of other characters, and the soapy drippy romance is still present and accounted for. “The New World” just didn’t live up to the hype that preceded it, and that’s because Malick anxiously looks for a new method of telling this yarn and pretty much never achieves his goals in that respect from the get go.
Once again the settlers interrupt the land, fight the Native Americans, John Smith falls in love with Pocahontas, and we’re right back to square one. Who can blame John Smith for falling for Pocahontas? Q’Orianka Kilcher is an absolutely gorgeous creature, so it’s no surprise the men here fall for her. Hell, I was smitten by the time the second half rolled around. She’s the most stunning actress to portray this character ever, and she’s filled with such a sense of attraction that doesn’t entirely lie on sexual appeal, but more in innocence and the surprises she offers to the men she falls for. Kilcher’s depiction of her makes her an awfully sympathetic girl who never grew up and came in touch with her culture. She’s a woman struggling to remain loyal to her tribe, yet is amazed at Western culture and its offerings.
After almost an hour of John Smith struggling to remain loyal to his troops, though, while discovering the beauty of the Native American civilization, suddenly Christian Bale enters as another settler who also falls in love with Kilcher’s character. We’re given yet another dull repetitive sequence of the two falling for one another amidst whispering narration between them, most of which are never as dramatic as Malick hopes. “The New World” often comes off as hacky devices to make up for lack of competent editing that could tell us more than the constant narration could, in the end. One of the reasons why “The New World” is such an interesting epic, is the wonderful direction from Terence Malick manages to invoke a sense of grandeur almost as if he’s not even trying. Some of the set pieces are so down and gritty that you can never really notice what Malick has accomplished in terms of scale.
Some of the scenes are so eloquent that they don’t need dialogue. Which is why “The New World” is mostly based around expressions, and visuals, and awe, because Malick displays faith in his cast and own abilities. It’s not only the language barrier that prevents Smith from exchanging with Pocahontas, but it’s the fact that this relationship between Smith and Pocahontas is quaint that sappy dialogue is just not wholly necessary. “The New World” has the right idea, but in holding the audiences hands, and the bland story, it never lives up to the expectations it precedes. I was disappointed that “The New World” simply wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. In spite of excellent direction, it’s still a rather boring, and often pretentious bit of romance that’s neither original nor memorable.