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The latest film about Capt. John Smith and Pocahontas relies too much on quiet reflection.
By wire services
Published January 19, 2006
TUESDAY: The Aristocrats; Flightplan; The Fog; Oliver Twist; Thumbsucker
JAN. 31: In Her Shoes; The Legend of Zorro; Tim Burton's Corpse Bride; The War Within
FEB. 7: Best of Youth; Doom; Elizabethtown; Just Like Heaven; MirrorMask; Waiting; Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit; Zathura
FEB. 14: Nine Lives; Proof; Saw II; The Thing About My Folks
FEB. 21: Domino; First DescentRENTALS
1. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
2. Four Brothers
3. Must Love Dogs
4. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
5. Into The Blue
6. The Brothers Grimm
7. Dark Water
8. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (unrated)
9. The Island
10. Cinderella ManDVD SALES
1. Toy Story 2 (special edition)
2. American Pie Presents: Band Camp (unrated wide)
3. American Pie Presents: Band Camp (unrated full)
4. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (unrated wide)
5. Into The Blue (wide)
6. Four Brothers (wide)
7. The Brothers Grimm
8. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (unrated)
9. Serenity (wide)
10. Dark Water (unrated)
VNU Business Media and Nielsen SoundScanb0987$temp$ $STPT$ ID: The New World+ Paper:+ Date: 1/19/06+ Page: + Section: WEEKEND+ Byline: STEVE PERSALL+ Headline: "New World' is just too dreary+
The New World is Terrence Malick's latest attempt to transform movie screens into still-life canvases. Call it visual poetry if you wish, but if 17th century colonialism progressed this slowly, you might be reading this review in the Powhatan Nation's language.
One measure of Malick's indulgence is New Line Cinema's decision to trim nearly 15 minutes of footage from the version shown to critics in December. Where those cuts occurred isn't known since that viewing didn't compel a second one. Let's just say there were plenty of options for edits among the picturesque landscapes and near-wordless relationships between characters. The New World gets old, and often.
It's hard to imagine a duller dramatization of English colonists meeting American Indians than Disney's Pocahontas, but here it is. Malick paints with only a few colors of the wind and they're dingy. The New World doesn't make statements about displaced cultures or corrupting nature. Neither does it present an affecting love story, despite casting Colin Farrell as Capt. John Smith and an exotic newcomer, Q'Orianka Kilcher, as Pocahontas.
Both characters spend too much time gazing in wonder at skies and rivers while struggling with the language barrier. Smith's thoughts are whispered by Farrell in voiceovers, while Pocahontas' decidedly simpler ideas use body language and a few subtitles. The film's first hour, when Smith is captured by Powhatan Indians and learns their ways - Dances with Wolves redux - is Malick's finest achievement, capped by Pocahontas' legendary sparing of Smith's life.
Smith returns to the drab, despairing English colony and the movie sags. Internal squabbles become redundant until Malick gambles with eliminating Smith from the picture entirely; a star such as Farrell deserves better than a hasty farewell and replacement by Christian Bale as John Rolfe, a widower who fancies the princess and remakes her in the image of Old World propriety. The final hour, when they travel to England and cultures clash, is a needless detour that doesn't convey whatever Malick intends except more pretty pictures.
What Malick creates is an elaborate History Channel special, full of painstaking detail about everything except emotion. The New World is undeniably beautiful, yet Malick gets so entranced by what he's capturing on film that the magic wears off for anyone else. Unless, of course, you share the filmmaker's obvious belief that anyone not sharing his appreciation is a Philistine. Such arrogance is easy to resist, at least from this corner of the world.
- Steve Persall can be reached at 727 893-8365 or firstname.lastname@example.orgThe New World
Director: Terrence Malick
Cast: Colin Farrell, Q'Orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi, David Thewlis
Screenplay: Terrence Malick
Rating: PG-13; violence, brief sensuality
Running time: 135 min.