The New World consists mostly of heroic vistas of the Virginia woods and coastal swamplands, of English sailing ships of circa 1600 construction, dropping and raising anchor frequently, of rain, sun, clouds, wind, a bit of blustery snowfall. Bands of native Americans, with very edgy tattoos, piercings, body paint and hairdos frequently mill about aimlessly. Bearded, hairy-chested, filthy, and probably foul-smelling English sailors and adventurers frequently mill about muddy, wooden forts. Even in London, the citizens frequently mill about in stone squares. Characters in The New World speak private thoughts through voice-overs or talk directly to the camera, instead of carrying on actual conversations.
Colin Farrell (who plays Captain John Smith) is beautiful for the camera. Q’Orianka Kilcher (who plays Pocahontas) is even more beautiful than Colin Farrell. In scene after scene, Farrell and Kilcher, or Farrell, or Kilcher, run through the woods, roll in the grass, stroke each other’s cheek or bosom or eyebrow, or make limpid eyes at the camera, always, always, always looking stunningly beautiful. Seasons come and seasons go, a smothering Wagnerian soundtrack washes over everything beautiful, making everything even more cruelly beautiful.
All is beautiful to look at, even if love and fate and life in the seventeenth century, New World or Old, is cruel, unkind, unfair—life may be a bitch, but she is a beautiful bitch, the most beautiful bitch imaginable. The only question Malick seems to offer here is how many people will actually sit through this two-and-a-half hour Calvin Klein ad.