In high school, I had a history teacher that would often deviate from the topic he was teaching to tell a personal anecdote that somehow fit in the history lesson. In one of these deviations, he said that he didn’t mind historically inaccurate movies (hell, he even loved 300), but that Disney’s Pocahontas was the movie he hated the most. He hated that an animated musical was made out of the story, and he despised Mel Gibson’s performance. Now that I’ve seen it I can sort of see where he was coming from. I however, did not hate it, as there are plenty of salvageable things about it, but overall, it is a huge step down from the greatness of The Lion King.
The thing is, this story is not something that you should make a musical out of. I’m not saying it is impossible. They sure tried their hardest, but the end result does show that it is nearly impossible. Almost every single musical number disrupts the flow of the film, and truth be told, the songs are kind of awful. The only one I liked, loved in fact, was “Colors of the Wind,” but even so, the scene felt out of place.
Among other awful things are Mel Gibson’s performance, the script, and the villain. I like Gibson as an actor, but here it sounds like he is just phoning his lines in. There is no emotion behind them. He was truly just doing this for the paycheck. The script does nothing to put some life back into the Pocahontas story, and the dialogue is cringe-worthy. And as a result of the weak script, the villain here is the worst ever. His motivation (gold) is stupid, and I just hate ignorant characters. At least they didn’t meddle with history and have John Smith live happily ever after with Pocahontas.
With that said, there were a couple of things that kept me from hating it and actually enjoy it a lot. Chief among these things is the animation. It truly captures what I imagine pre-colonial America would have looked like. Also, the character design is among Disney’s best. I especially loved that they didn’t give any exagerated features of the Indians. And because of the animation, I loved the lead-up to the climax. But of course, there could not be a battle in a Disney movie (I hate how there is no blood when somebody gets wounded).
The animation and “Colors of the Wind” make me not regret sitting through this. But they could have done much better with this story.