Sunday, November 23, 2014


Thanksgiving is near, and I think now would be a good time to review Disney's...

Loosely based on the famous Indian daughter of Chief Powhatan Pocahontas; the film is a fictional take on the myth between Pocahontas and John Smith. English settlers lead by John Smith and Governor Ratcliffe travel to a new land for gold. However, the land they tend to destroy and settle in is runned by the Powhatan tribe, and the both sides are at war. However, the Chief’s daughter Pocahontas, and John Smith have a forbidden romance, and are trying to bring peace between both sides. Now for you historians out there who think I'm going to compare the fiction to the history, I'm not, because at least 95% of the film is all made up, and I really don't see the point in talking about it, since the film is already aware that it's making up history. Not to say that there aren't films that fictionalize history so much that it doesn't get insulting or cliche like "Titanic: The Animated Movie" (Both films); or "Cool Runnings" (Which is a Disney film) for example. The plot for this movie is as cliche as it gets. I mean we already know this cliche story about racism and tolerance, but with that said, does the film at least do a good job at executing its cliche story and fictional take on history through the characters, songs, and animation? ON WITH THE REVIEW...

Let’s start with our two romantic leads. The films lead Pocahontas (Voiced by Irene Bedard) is one of the few Disney Princesses that's been praised for being one of the strongest ones in the Disney Princess franchise, and in all honesty she is. She's intelligent; she's brave; she's free spirited; she's curious; she's confused; she's fun; and I actually do enjoy this character a lot. John Smith (Voiced by Mel Gibson, which I'll admit is indeed odd, seeing him in a film about racial tolerance) is just as great as Pocahontas. He's charming; he's brave; he's smart (For the most part. I mean really, firing a musket with both eyes open gives you better sight when firing at your enemy?); he's heroic; he's cool; and I honestly think he's one of the coolest male heroes that Disney has ever created. The romance between them as cliche as it gets, I actually still feel a connection between the two. I mean seeing them talk to each other about their cultures and try to figure out a way to bring peace between both sides so they can be together, doesn't feel half-assed, I literally felt the chemistry and connection between the two. I also love how the film ends and without giving too much away for newcomers, our characters don't live happily ever after, but the film ends on such a strong emotional and bitter sweet note, that I not only find it emotional, but I wish Disney films would take on that approach a little more often. I guess the only big criticism I have between the two and the film itself is how they are able to understand each other. The film briefly shows Pocahontas not understanding Smith because of their different languages, but suddenly she does by I guess the magic of the spirits. Now if that were the case (Which I think is a total cop-out), then how does the Natives and Settlers understand each other? I always thought the reason why Pocahontas spoke in a different language was for her to shake off John Smith by pretending that she doesn't understand what he's saying, but if that were the case, then how did her tribe know English, if it's all new to them? I know I'm nitpicking, but I just can't but help overlook that plot hole.

Now lets look at the supporting characters, because believe me there's a lot to cover. Let’s start with the English settlers. While, the settlers aren't really the villains, nor are the Natives for that matter, the film does still have a villain, which is the greedy Governor Ratcliffe (Voiced by David Ogden Stiers). In all honesty, I didn't feel like the film needed a villain. I mean, just having the Settlers and Natives just fight each other because of race and land, is enough to fill in the drama for the film, there's no need for a main villain. Granted, he is funny and unlikable, and Stiers is fun to listen too, but he's still a bland one dimensional cliche villain with nothing new to him at all, which makes him one of Disney's weakest villains. In fact, sometimes I swear that this character has the characteristics of a bratty child that wants stuff, and won't shut up about it, until he gets it. Stiers also voices the villain's comical servant, who has a few funny moments, and does a great job not making his voice sound similar to the other person he's voicing; however, he's still a character you don't really need. You can cut him out and the film won't make much a difference. At least, the villain actually does something that leads to the fantastic conclusion, this guy does nothing, but act goofy. There are also two comical settlers, (One voiced by Billy Connolly, who's Scottish) and while you can cut them out of the film too, I in all honesty still find them to be fun and likable characters. Finally there's the clumsy young settler Thomas who is voiced by a young Christine Bale, who's another likable character, however, and sadly, he really doesn't have much (Or hardly any) development. By the way, don't you find it funny, that Bale who will later be Batman, has to constantly be saved by the crazy Mel Gibson?

Now we go on to the Native characters. Before I start talking about the characters, I understand that the film received some controversy for the films portrayal of Native Americans. They weren't as horrible as the red face ministerial show like Indians in Disney's "Peter Pan", but they were still considered as Native stereotypes. While, they are indeed stereotypes or archetypes on what we considered what Indians were at the time, I personally didn't find them mean or insulting; I actually thought they were really cool and interesting characters. In fact, I actually enjoyed spending more time with them, than I did with the Settlers. I actually wanted to get to know their life style, and look on nature. However, I'm not Native, so I can't say that Natives won't get offended by the films portrayal of them, and if you are offended you have every right too. However, I think we can all agree that they weren't as offensive or insulting as the Indians in "Peter Pan". Pocahontas's Father (Voiced by Native actor Russell Means) is the supporting character who I personally really enjoy spending time with the most. He's very humble and likable; he's open to talking for a peaceful solution, than using violence; he looks like a cool and intimidating leader; I love seeing him talk and bond with his daughter; and I actually wish the film would actually show or talk about more about his past with Pocahontas's Mother who of course is dead (Very typical Disney) and see him and his Natives fight at the war that he returned from. Yeah, I really do find him that interesting of a character. I also enjoy spending time with Pocahontas's best friend. I find her very likable; I love seeing her and Pocahontas hang out together; and I love how supportive she is to her friend, and how much she cares for her, even though she makes a huge mistake. There's also the Chief's magical best friend, who's another character that I really liked. I just love how wise, helpful, and humble he is. I just hate the fact that we don't see him in the end, the last time we see him is him putting war paint on the Natives during the musical number "Savages", I would have loved to see him standing on the Chief's side at the end of the movie. The only Native character I found boring is the Brave warrior Kocoum. He's build up to be this great and brave warrior, who is seeking to marry our films heroine, but he's so boring, so forgettable, and so downplayed in the story, that it felt pointless to put him in the film. Even the scene when we're supposed to feel bad for him, we don't because we barley know him, or find him interesting.

The rest of the supporting characters are the animals, who don't talk. I find it really odd because in a film about communicating with nature (Especially being a Disney film) this is the perfect film to have animals talk. Originally, they were going to make the animals talk, as well as having John Candy voice a talking Turkey, but since he sadly died during film making, Disney decided to pull both the character and the idea of talking animals all together; which is one of the lamest excuses that I've ever heard in axing an idea for a film. Instead of talking animals, we get a lone talking Tree instead; which makes the idea of pulling the talking animals worse than it is. Don't get me wrong,  I do enjoy the silent comical cute animals like Flit the humming bird; Percy the dog; and Meeko the raccoon (Despite being pointless characters); and the talking Tree Grandmother Willow, is also my second favorite character in the film with her wise, fun, humble, and charming personality; but neither the less, the idea is still dumb, makes no sense, and the film should have at least stuck with the idea of making the animals talk, along with the talking tree.


Now let’s talk about the musical numbers. Pocahontas's singing voice is done by Judy Kuhn who does a remarkable and flawless job at singing Pocahontas's songs. "Just Around The River Bend" is a very fun and energetic song, as well as showing her emotions of being free spirited and careless; to wondering what path she will take. Then there's the Oscar winning song "Colors Of The Wind", which is indeed a great song, and does indeed deliver the films message and out look on nature.  There's the Settlers song "Mine, Mine, Mine" as Ratcliffe and the Settlers ruin this beautiful land by digging it up for gold and cutting down and blowing up trees (DAMN!), which as a kid (and even now) I found it horrifying to watch to see what humanity does to such beautiful pieces of land. There's the war song "Savages", and while having some very intense lyrics that shouldn't belong in a kids film, it's still a really epic and cool looking number. Even little songs such as "Steady As A Beating Drum" sung by the Natives (And an obvious dub of Jim Cummings singing poorly as the Chief in the reprise); "Listen With Your Heart" sung by Grandmother Willow; and the opening song "Virginia Company" song by the Settlers are really good and very atmospheric songs. The films score is also great as well, I always find myself literally getting sucked into this films world every time I hear it. There's a song called "If I Never Knew You" which was cut from the film because test audiences found it too boring, and while I can understand why, I actually think it’s a really great and emotional song. I actually did feel the emotion and the love between the two characters during the scene. Mel Gibson also even sings during that number, and while he's no singer, the effort, heart and passion that he puts into is so good that you don't care if he's not a professional. I also love the image of Pocahontas looking into river and taking John Smith's hand, when during the "Just Around The River Bend" song, she didn't take Koocum's hand. It's a really great number and scene, and I really wish that the film didn't cut it out. At least we can still see it on "The 10th Anniversary DVD".

The animation in the movie is really great! Not as magical as the previous films in the renaissance, but it's still beautiful to look at. The use of colors; the landscape designs; the montages; the action sequences; the computer animation; and the detail put in pretty much everything we see is really amazing. The designs for the characters are good too, in fact, they don't even look like Barbie dolls, they actually look more like humans; and while I do love the designs for the characters in the previous Disney films before this film, I actually wish Disney would make their characters more human looking when it comes to making films that aren't entirely based on fantasy and magic. As for the film's morals and themes on Nature and race, while still being a cliched story, I actually think the film handled it (For the most part) mature enough to execute its morals and themes. I actually did want to see the two sides make peace; I actually did come out of the film appreciating the beauties of Nature. Again the plot is nothing new, and having a villain felt forced and unnecessary, but in my opinion, it still at least brought out its message very well and clearly (At least for me).

Overall, "Pocahontas", is not a good Disney movie, but it's not that bad either. It's really a mixed bag of a Disney film, that has many things that's both good and bad, but even the good things leave me mixed as well. There are many people who seemed to love it, while many others seem to hate it. I don't highly recommend it compared to many other Disney films, but it's still worth a look, and one of the Disney films you might find yourself loving or hating.


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