The New World

Bomb Rating: 

The only thing longer than the period between two Terrence Malick films is the perceived time spent watching one.

If you have never seen a Terrence Malick film and are thinking of seeing this one because you're hot for Colin Farrell or think Christian Bale might whip out a Bat-hook and launch it into some poor native's forehead, I'd suggest renting "The Thin Red Line" (1998) or "Days of Heaven" (1978), films that occur consecutively in Malick's cinematic resume. The only thing longer than the period between two Malick films is the perceived time spent watching one.

While soaking in one of these Malick classics, invite a few family members over to the couch to share the experience. If somebody doesn't change the channel in the first 15 minutes, or your mother doesn't ask if this is your way of telling her to move out of the guest room, or unemployed Uncle Bobby doesn't ask if he can take the fire poker and jam it through his thigh, "The New World" might be for you. Otherwise, stay away. Don't be suckered in by the big acting names. This isn't just an art film. It's one of those tedious, ultra-long, self-important movies that eschew dialogue and story for so many long, plaintive stares between characters that you'd swear the actors were on the umpteenth take of a cough syrup commercial.

If Malick wanted to tell the story of Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher), he should have told it all from her point of view, but he seems to be admitting that Farrell and Bale sell the movie and there's just nothing he can do about it. Making a movie about Pocahontas is one thing. Risking your entire career on the back of a first-time actress named Q'Orianka is another. Thus, John Smith (Colin Farrell) arrives in Virginia, helps set up Jamestown, meets and falls in love with Pocahontas, and then leaves. Suddenly, it's a different movie and Pocahontas, like the audience, spends what seems an eternity wondering where Smith went.

I would never trust a filmmaker as far as I could throw him to accurately interpret a moment in history, so if Malick wants to spend miles of film watching Smith and Pocahontas (whom nobody actually calls "Pocahontas") roll in the grass and make googly eyes at each other, that's fine with me. Malick seems to think of himself as an emotional filmmaker, which is like saying Gallagher is a cerebral comedian. Even in a long movie like this one, Malick narrows his interpretation down to the innocent and pure "naturals" versus the ignorant, greedy foreigners. It's about as incisive an interpretation of history as one might see in an episode of "Survivor."

"The New World" is really just the same old Malick.

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