By Leah Rozen
January 30, 2006 12:00 PM
  • Colin Farrell, Q’Orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer, Wes Studi

Don’t go expecting to hear anybody warbling “Colors of the Wind.” Though The New World retells the Pocahontas story, it bears no resemblance to the cheerful Disney cartoon or earlier movie versions depicting the arrival of the first English settlers in Virginia in 1607. Director-writer Terrence Malick, the maverick filmmaker best known for Badlands (1973) and Days of Heaven (1978), has created a nature tone poem, one in which his camera is trained as frequently on trees, grass and sky as on his characters. And when his lens is observing Capt. John Smith (Farrell) or Pocahontas (Kilcher), they’re likely to be taking a meandering walk through the forest or twirling endlessly in a meadow, accompanied by a voice-over of their interior thoughts.

It’s all very beautiful, but compelling the movie is not. You need to let World wash over you, absorbing its vision. To some, it will speak deeply. To others more wedded to conventional narrative and dialogue, it doesn’t get more boring than this. It’s only during the final third, after Captain Smith has decamped and Pocahontas is wed to John Rolfe (Bale), that the film becomes inspired. When the pair travel to England, which with its manicured shrubbery and massive castles seems as strange and wondrous to her as America did to the English settlers, World finally soars. (PG-13)