FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Pocahontas (1995)
WHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE.
I’m a Fulya Kantarmaci and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film on this Valentine’s Day is Disney’s Pocahontas…
Two different people from different cultural backgrounds find each other on their own quests; one is seeking a path to riches and glory, while the other is seeking a path to love…
Pocahontas opens with the patriotic song ‘Virginia Company’, showing English settlers getting ready to venture off to find new land. Fast forward to a village of Native Americans peacefully going about their day harvesting food and preparing for the return of the village warriors.
Two diverse worlds that will soon collide.
This is a love story like no other, taking you on a journey of spirituality and emotion. You have Pocahontas (Irene Bedard), who follows her own path and listens to the wind to guide her. And then you have John Smith (Mel Gibson), an adventure-seeking captain who talks of finding gold and fighting ‘Injuns.’
Native American Pocahontas is searching for the right path to follow after her father, Chief Powhatan (Russell Means), tells her that she will marry the village’s best warrior, Kocoum (James Apaumut Fall). Pocahontas feels that she will not be happy with Kocoum because he is too serious and not free spirited like herself. She ventures off into the forest to receive advice from her Grandmother Willow (Linda Hunt)—a talking willow tree. Grandmother Willow tells Pocahontas to listen to the wind (and her heart) to guide her down the path she seeks.
On the other side of the land, Governor Ratcliffe (David Ogden Stiers) has his crew build ‘Jamestown’ and mine the non-existent gold. John Smith decides to go for a walk and have a look around through the forest to make sure there are no immediate threats to the camp such as ‘savages’. Through this short journey, Smith realises he is not alone and hides behind a waterfall. Curious about the white man she has discovered and wanting to get a closer look, Pocahontas climbs down to the water’s edge, startling Smith, who points his musket right at her. He sees who it is and lowers his gun, mesmerised by her beauty. They are both a little wary of each other but John is the first to break the ice.
As the film progresses, the settlers find out that there are natives living on ‘their’ land and vice versa. Both sides think they are there to cause chaos and mayhem so they keep a watchful eye on one another. However, Pocahontas and Smith begin to fall in love and soon discover, to their surprise, that a war between the natives and the settlers is about to break out. This is their chance to talk the leaders out of any conflict and try a different approach. The Chief reluctantly agrees to Pocahontas’ suggestion but Ratcliffe is suspicious of Smith’s suggestion.
By now, Pocahontas and Smith are deeply in love and share a first kiss. Unfortunately, they were not alone, secretly watched by his friend Thomas (Christian Bale) and by her betrothed Kocoum.
[WARNING: The following scene contains plot spoilers.]
You’re probably wondering why I didn’t choose one of the more obvious love stories like Cinderella (1950) or Beauty and the Beast (1991). Growing up, Pocahontas was one of my favourite Disney films and I never really dreamt of being a princess so the fairy tales didn’t resonate with me.
When this film was released in 1995, it was greeted with mixed reactions. Reviewers said they enjoyed the music and the animation, however criticised the story because it didn’t quite follow the historical tale of Pocahontas. I, for one, like the music, the animation AND the story. The film is unique and the music just sweeps me away to another world—including the songs, which are something special.
There are six songs in the film along with many beautiful scores; all of which are emotional and entertaining in their own way. My favourite songs from the soundtrack would have to be one of the opening titles ‘Steady as a Beating Drum’—the music in this song gives me goosebumps every time I hear it! Another song I enjoy listening to is ‘Just Around the Riverbend’. The lyrics makes me stop and think about my dreams and what course to take, so it definitely creates an emotional feeling within me.
One of the more entertaining tracks is ‘Mine, Mine, Mine’, sung by Governor Ratcliffe (Ogden Stiers) and featuring John Smith (Corey Burton singing for Gibson). Ratcliffe sings of wealth and status hoping he can find gold. Smith then comes in singing about owning the land and the challenges he may face. Both have slightly different goals but essentially state they are after the riches of the country. Listening to this song always makes me chuckle and I tend to sing along to it.
Overall, Pocahontas is a moving film that teaches everyone a lesson on communication, respect, and how violence doesn’t resolve anything. I would recommend this movie to anyone who doesn’t mind their history skewed and loves a little romance. And remember, in order to find the path you seek, you must “…listen with your heart. You will understand.” 4 / 5
Starring: Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson David Ogden Stiers John Kassir, Russell Means, Christian Bale, Linda Hunt, Danny Mann, Billy Connolly, Frank Welker, Michelle St. John, James Apaumut Fall, Gordon Tootoosis, Judy Kuhn, Corey Burton, Jim Cummings.
Directors: Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg | Writers: Carl Binder, Susannah Grant, Philip LaZebnik (Story: Glen Keane, Joe Grant, Ralph Zondag, Burny Mattinson, Ed Gombert, Kaan Kalyon, Francis Glebas, Robert Gibbs, Bruce Morris, Todd Kurosawa, Duncan Marjoribanks, Chris Buck) | Producer: Jim Pentecost | Music: Alan Menken | Editor: H. Lee Peterson
Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!
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