This film was written and directed by Terence Malick, who I understand was much-lauded for the film The Thin Red Line, but as I haven’t seen it, that’s just a point of reference and not any kind of comparison, as I did not like New World at all, for a variety of reasons.
Put simply, the film tells the story of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas, who, as the words of the song ‘Fever’ tell us, had a very mad affair. Except in this film, they don’t really, because the pivotal love story utterly failed to convince me – Colin Farrell inevitably brings an Irish accent to the part, but little else, playing Smith as a doe-eyed simpleton whose wooing of a member of a complex and evolved tribe appears mainly to have been accomplished by flicking of leaves and water at her. Smooth.
The film features voice-overs from the characters at various points, apparently designed to inject some feeling of depth into their relationship, but it’s a simplistic, Hallmark-card kind of romance, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was an attempt to salvage the film in the edit; I can all too easily imagine the film-maker’s dismay on realising that what’s meant to be a compelling and believable love story consists mainly of people staring at each other with all the emotional depth of a Maestro transaction, and thus bringing the cast back in to add some voice-overs.
I’m guessing at that, but the film just didn’t work for me in other ways too; the pacing was askew – loads of shots of the happy couple making dopey eyes at each other, and then when the British send more settlers, we’re informed in a voice-over that ‘the British returned in force and soon won the battle’ (I paraphrase), which seems a pretty direct contravention of the old ‘show, don’t tell’ maxim about film-making. One of the people I saw it with remarked that ‘he does interesting things with pacing’ but I think that the example I just gave was more an example of budgetary constraints.
It was a couple of hours long, but felt a lot longer to me; Christopher Plummer and Christian Bale are kind of watchable in it, but it feels as if they’re trying their best with a bad script (and some of the dialogue is very wonky indeed, and oddly hard to understand sometimes on an audibility level), and so I really can’t recommend it at all – the most interesting elements were the lengthy shots of the natural world (but nature documentaries do that much better), and the music, which I believe was by James Newton Howard, though it was frequently reminiscent of Wagner – to my untrained ear, parts of Gotterdammerung, though I could be wrong.
Anyway, I didn’t enjoy it at all. You might, but if you watch it and don’t like it, hey, I warned ya.