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Terrence Malick
Colin Farrell, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi, David Thewlis, Yorick van Wageningen, Q'Orianka Kilcher, Ben Mendelsohn
Writing Credits:
Terrence Malick

Once discovered, it was changed forever.

In this romantic epic starring Colin Farrell, Christian Bale and beautiful newcomer Q'orianka Kilcher, acclaimed filmmaker Terrence Malick brings to life the classic true tale of Pocahontas and her relationship with adventurer John Smith set during the turbulent beginnings of America.

Box Office:
$30 million.
Opening Weekend
$57.000 thousand 3 screens.
Domestic Gross
$12.712 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 135 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 5/9/2006

• “Making The New World” Documentary
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The New World (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 24, 2006)

Wow – that Terrence Malick’s on a roll! While it took 20 years before he directed a follow-up to 1978’s Days of Heaven, Malick cranked out 2005’s The New World a mere seven years after the release of 1998’s The Thin Red Line. At that rate, he might finish another film before this decade ends!

But I wouldn’t hold my breath. World offers Malick’s take on the oft-reiterated legend of Pocahontas and John Smith. Set in 1607, a group of British colonists led by Captain Christopher Newport (Christopher Plummer) arrives in Virginia. There they set up camp and mingle with the “naturals”. Newport tries to make these interactions peaceful and productive, though tensions inevitably emerge between the two cultures.

This means the natives lose trust in the British, so the colonists need to find other trading partners to survive. They hear of a “king” not far away, and disgraced Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) gets the potentially hazardous mission to find him. In the meantime, Newport heads back to England to retrieve additional supplies and leaves others in charge of the camp.

While on his mission, the natives capture Smith and Chief Powhatan (August Schellenberg) orders him executed. At the last second, however, Powhatan’s daughter Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher) steps in to save his life. Powhatan permits this reprieve to stand. From there Pocahontas and Smith get to know each other better and fall in love.

Alas, all doesn’t remain all peachy. The Indians remain wary of the settlers, so they eventually send Smith back to the camp and order him to take the others back home. He finds the British in a bad way and takes over leadership. This doesn’t improve the situation, however, and matters don’t get better until Pocahontas comes with supplies to relieve the hunger and disease of the colonists.

The rest of the movie examines the Pocahontas/Smith relationship, though it gradually emphasizes her tale more than his. We watch the path she takes away from her tribe and into British society. This also leads her to a relationship with John Rolfe (Christian Bale) as the film follows the life of Pocahontas.

To put it mildly, I wasn’t exactly excited to see World. I disliked the turgid and ponderous Thin Red Line and feared that World would be more of the same. I don’t know if I could take more than two hours of dreamy nothingness again.

Happily, World provides a much more satisfying experience. I wouldn’t call it flawless, but it usually works well. To be sure, the romance of this tale fits Malick’s dreamy style much better than does the battle setting of Line. In that flick, it felt odd to see all these absurdly philosophical GIs, but the same sort of thoughtfulness makes a lot more sense here.

Unlike Line, this flick may actually be too short and too filled with exposition. I think World rushes through the early encounters between the natives and the colonists awfully quickly. I never thought I’d feel a Malick film was too short, but I know that those parts of the first act felt rushed. Other parts of the flick that deal with secondary characters also tend to zip past us. I’d bet Malick shot these scenes but chopped them down to make the movie shorter. We don’t absolutely need them, but the movie comes across as a bit abrupt and hurried without them.

I also could have lived without all the voiceover found here. We often here Smith and Pocahontas verbalize their romantic thoughts. I don’t think these bits are necessary. They’d play better in silence, as the movie easily could let the actors’ motions and gestures do the talking for them. Frankly, the awkward voiceover lines thrust upon the actors create the flick’s most tedious moments. They spell out emotions that don’t require that form of detail.

Those quibbles aside, World forms a satisfying mix of fact and fiction as the basis of its romance. More than most cinematic explorations of the Pocahontas legend, this one gets its facts correct. Actually, it appears that the only substantial liberties it takes come from the love affair between Smith and Pocahontas. History opines that they had a friendship but nothing more than that.

As with virtually all versions of the story, World makes Pocahontas older than she really was – at least at first. The real Pocahontas was about 12 in 1607, whereas Kilcher was 15 when they made the movie. Of course, this means she also plays older than her years for parts of the movie – it progresses through 1617 – but it still leaves the wrong impression of the initial age of Pocahontas. At least the flick doesn’t portray Pocahontas as the super babe of the Disney flick.

As far as I can tell, World gets the basic facts correct and only really stretches in regard to the romantic elements. That doesn’t bother me. The film doesn’t push itself as perfectly factual, and it handles the love affair in a natural, impressive manner. This isn’t a documentary, so perfect adherence to the facts isn’t necessary. I remain impressed that the filmmakers attempted to get so much of the other parts correct.

World acts as a nice counter to the usual thrust of this sort of movie. Again, I hearken back to the Disney Pocahontas and its political correctness. It presents idiotic, greedy white men and virtually flawless Indians. World shows good and bad on both sides as it refuses to endorse one above the other. I like that balance and think it feels refreshing.

(For the record, please don’t take my comments about Disney’s Pocahontas to mean I dislike the film. I actually find it to offer a pretty entertaining piece of work. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand its flaws, however.)

As always, Malick creates an unusual attractive film. He really paints with the cinematic canvas, and unlike the setting of Line, the loveliness of this flick’s visuals makes sense. From start to finish, he creates a gorgeous picture that enhances the dreamy romance of the story.

The New World does nothing to revolutionize cinema. Its love story is fairly standard stuff, and its telling of the Pocahontas legend sticks with the known facts for the most part. Nonetheless, Malick manages to package all of this into something lovely and engaging.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B

The New World appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The disc brought this lovely film to life with a terrific transfer.

At all times, sharpness appeared immaculate. Despite the presence of a little light edge enhancement, the image stayed rock-solid from start to finish. If any softness occurred, I didn’t see it. I noticed no shimmering or jagged edges, and source flaws also failed to pop up during the film.

As expected, World presented a lush, natural palette. The film favored the green landscape and brought out many vivid, lovely hues. The colors always appeared full and dynamic. Blacks were equally taut and deep, while shadows seemed clean and clear. I found little fault in this appealing presentation.

In addition, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The New World proved to be immensely satisfying. Much of the time it stayed with atmospheric material, and it delivered those elements in a convincing manner. Scenes with natural settings like forests and the ocean were involving and smooth.

The movie also boasted a number of more active segments, and those also succeeded. Any of the fight pieces offered a lot of information. These provided good use of all five speakers as they ensured we got involved in the battles. The soundfield helped create an immersive setting that worked well for the film.

Across the board, audio quality was terrific. Speech always appeared concise and distinctive, and I noticed no signs of edginess or other problems. Music was bright and dynamic, while effects fell into the same category. Those elements seemed clean and clear, and they also presented very nice range. Low-end response consistently sounded deep and full. I debated whether I should give World an “A-“ or a “B+”, but the overall package impressed me enough to warrant the higher grade.

Moving to the extras, the major attraction comes from a 10-part documentary called Making The New World. In this 59-minute and five-second piece, we find movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from production designer Jack Fisk, art director David Crank, Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities Director of Archaeology Dr. William Kelso, Native American advisor Buck Woodard, lead greensperson Jeff DeBell, producer Sarah Green, Chickhominy Tribe Chief Stephen R. Adkins, choreographer/actor Raoul Trujillo, master armorer Vern Crofoot, first assistant director Shelley Ziegler, assistant choreographer/actor Rulan Tangen, Algonquian translator Blair Rudes, makeup designer Paul Engelen, set decorator Jim Erickson, costume designer Jacqueline West, Patawomeck Tribe Chief Robert Green, executive producer Trish Hofmann, historic ships coordinator Mark Preisser, boat captain William T. “Chip” Reynolds, first assistant A-camera Harry Zimmerman, stunt coordinator/second unit director Andy Cheng, gaffer Dayton Nietert, and actors Cory Rodriguez, Jonathan Ward, Anthony Parker, Ben Mendelsohn, Marcus “Quese Imc” Littleeagle, Brian Frejo, Colin Farrell, Gary Sundown, John Savage, Brian F. O’Byrne, Rob Richardson, Russell, Williams, Michael Greyeyes, Noah Taylor, Q'Orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Wes Studi, August Schellenberg, Ford Flannagan, and Christopher Plummer.

The program looks at sets and their construction, locations near Jamestown, and the involvement of Native Americans in the production and their depiction in the film. From there it heads through actor training and casting, set decoration and costumes, shooting on the water and in Virginia, cinematography, director Terrence Malick’s working style, and general impressions of the production.

“Making” offers a fine examination of the production’s attempts to maintain authenticity. Occasionally it veers in the direction of self-congratulation, but it manages to remain more reflective that that. The abundance of images from the shoot certainly makes things more interesting, as we find a lot of fine shots from the set. This show doesn’t offer a totally concise examination of all aspects of the flick, but it presents a consistently intriguing and useful take on World.

The DVD opens with ads for The Thing About My Folks, Ushpizin, Syriana, Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, A Prairie Home Companion and The Notorious Bettie Page. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area. We get the theatrical and teaser trailers for World as well.

I can’t say I expected much from The New World, but I must admit the final result satisfies. It provides a rich, often moving look at its subject and manages to avoid many of the usual pitfalls found in its genre. The DVD offers excellent picture and audio along with a nice documentary about the flick. World definitely merits a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5384 Stars Number of Votes: 26
4 3:
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