Since the latest season of Thursday’s Survivor is over, Susan and I opted to watch The New World last night and dammit I should’ve known better. See, I suffered Mallick’s previous film The Thin Red Line and swore I’d never give anything Terrence did the time of day. In fact I said more than that in an online review about the movie back when I saw it in 2001:
Lush tropical locale, guns, body parts, incompetent military leadership sending our terrified boys to be slaughtered — and you just can’t go wrong with Woody Harrelson literally blowing his butt off with a grenade… NOT! Engaging cinematography and Melenesian soundtrack aside, I don’t know what Director Terrence Mallick was going for here: war flick or existential treatise on the meaning of life and death and war and cigarettes and Yawn Penn emoting and whatever. But the muddled mix of the bunch just did not work for me to the point of where I found myself bogarting the ‘mote and 32x-ing it through the s-l-o-w zones. And at a running time of something like a bazillion minutes, there are certainly plenty of them. From my point of view, there are other films out there if you’re jonesing for some serious kaboom boom. “The Longest Day,” “The Dirty Dozen,” “Das Boot,” “Platoon” and of course “Saving Private Ryan” are all better bets in my book.
But there came The New World and my first thought when the words Terrence and Mallick were connected to it was Oh Hell No. But then just like Woody Allen’s Match Point I got fished in and fooled into adding it to my Netflix queue (and we all know how that turned out) by a critic or two who wet themselves in their respective reviews with how bodaciously majestic and poetically marvelous a masterpiece picture Mallick has wrought. Double naught.
Overwrought is more appropriate.
What bothers me the most is that I like to believe I don’t have a short attention span… that I’m not one of those mouthbreathers Hollywood makes movies for nowadays where they have to tell it all and wrap it up in 93 minutes. You give me something compelling and sincere and I swear I’ll stay with you for as long as you need to get a story told. Don’t believe me? I sat through all 172 minutes of Atanarjaut: The Fast Runner in an uncomfortable seat at South Pasadena’s Rialto, dammit. Loved it!
But along comes Mallick and his 135-minute version of the story of explorer John Smith and Pocahontas and Jamestown filled with lingering shots of flowing water or wind through the trees or Collin Farrell and whoever she is that played Pocahontas staring at each other in dumbfounded lust, which he then fills in with somnambulent voiceovers of actors unwinding monotonally through their existentialistic monologues and man the shit just puts me to sleep!
Sure, it parades as Great Art with its Rich Visuals and its Deep Meaning and its Conflicted Humanity and its Languid Pacing and its Transcendental Ambience, but what it all comes down to is that the only person Terrence Mallick makes movies for is Terrence Mallick. Wake me when he decides to quit entertaining himself and decides to entertain an audience. On second thought, don’t.