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The New World: Extended Cut (Blu-ray)
New Line Home Entertainment / 2005 / Unrated
Street Date: September 08, 2009
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Reviewed by Kevin Yeoman
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Please welcome Kevin Yeoman to High-Def Digest. Kevin is an entertainment journalist who also writes about television for Screenrant.com. An avid film enthusiast, who is always looking for a new or exciting film to add to his collection, Kevin enjoys rewatching films almost as much as discovering them for the first time. When he's not writing about or watching something, Kevin can usually be found walking around the various national forests in Washington State.
Back in 2005, seven years removed from his last feature film, the World War II drama 'The Thin Red Line,' director Terrence Malick had earned himself a reputation not unlike the equally hard to photograph Thomas Pynchon. Well thought of in the filmmaking industry, the enigmatic filmmaker had previously managed to go two decades between features – those being his 1978 film 'Days of Heaven,' and the aforementioned 'The Thin Red Line' in 1998 – so it came as a bit of a surprise when news spread of a new Malick film, 'The New World,' starring the likes of Christian Bale and Colin Farrell, which aimed to retell the story of Pocahontas and her relationship with Captain Smith.
Questions regarding the validity of such historical fiction aside, the notion of Malick re-treading territory once handled by Disney animators certainly caused the ears of those tuning in to prick up. Suffice to say, with a talent like Malick behind the lens, 'The New World' would be mercifully free of Mel Gibson-voiced show tunes.
As can sometimes be the case when a Malick film hits theaters, mainstream audiences largely ignored 'The New World,' despite the relatively high profile of two of its stars. While the box office proved something of a disappointment, the film did manage to attract a fair number of viewers who were particularly struck by the film's meditative style and loosely structured narrative. The result was one of the director's finest films, one that played with a story many Americans should be quite familiar with.
However, we must also remember that this review is dealing with 'The New World: Extended Cut,' which sees the film's already generous runtime balloon to an extraordinary 172 minutes – allowing for nearly an hour of material on each of the film's three… chapters, we'll say.
Like 'The Thin Red Line,' 'The New World' introduces us, via an ambling voiceover, to the main character (in this case, Collin Ferrell as John Smith), who finds himself questioning his role in the world, after coming into contact with a different way of life. Perhaps this is why Smith is so taken by the Powhatan tribe he and the rest of the explorers encounter. The Powhatans appear to have been stuck in time, apparently untouched by the world's progress and unfettered from the ills that the film suggests accompany such modern movements. Well, that and his fondness for the beautiful Pocahontas – played here with subtle charm by Q'Orianka Kilcher.
Chapter two largely concerns Smith's consequent banishment from paradise (for lack of a better word) and the colonists growing conflict with the tribe – one that sees them at the mercy of the Powhatans, even while they plan to seek the colonists' end. As that passes, the final segment revolves around Pocahontas' eventual marriage to John Rolfe (played here by a low-key Christian Bale), which sees her journey to England to enter what would be the final stage of her life: a transformation into an English woman.
Malick is able to pull effective performances from his three central characters – Farrell is particularly engaging – but as is often the case in his films, it’s the voiceovers that really carry the central narrative. Even when the internalization of the world around them is nothing but questions, Malick's intent comes through as a sort of eternal wonder at the beauty that exists everywhere.
The film never sets out to directly question the moral implications surrounding the events that saw Pocahontas removed from her home and the only life she'd ever known. Instead, it offers more of a meditation on what constitutes a natural life, and the film's central ethos, which is posed by the characters themselves in asking, "Shall we not take what we are given?"
Viewers will not find an answer to that question, and in fact, 'The New World' seems to offer them, as it does its characters, both sides of the coin, so as to encourage rumination on the nature of things, both given and taken.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The New World: Extended Cut' is distributed by New Line Cinema (i.e. Warner Bros.) and comes on a 50GB Blu-ray, in the standard keepcase with a slipcover featuring new art, likely intended to set it apart from the standard version released on DVD sometime earlier. Contained inside is a single, region free disc containing both the film as well as all of the supplemental material.
It's expected that the typically exquisite cinematography featured in the films of Terrence Malick would be the central focus of a format like Blu-ray, and this disc does not disappoint. The 1080p/VC-1 transfer captures the stunning beauty on display with a distinct and refined effectiveness. Colors are vivid, whether they are in the stark light of day, or otherwise concealed in shadow. Exterior scenes (which comprise most of the film) are consistently even; whites are never washed or blown out, lending a truly authentic and naturalistic representation of the world that rests at the core of the film.
Black levels are robust and effective, especially in the rare indoor scenes, which appear to have been lit sparingly. Remarkably, even in such dimly lit settings, fine detail remains strong throughout, highlighting the presence of a full color range with striking contrast. Fine detail in clothing and faces is superb, an attribute of high value when dealing with cinematography of this nature. Detail otherwise borders on spotless, though there are some very brief banding elements that will only be found by those nitpicking the video. Elsewhere viewers may find a few soft focus issues that likely have more to do with the director's original vision of the film.
All in all, for a catalog release, 'The New World' stands as strong evidence that Blu-ray can offer additional depth to films of this nature.
'The New World' boasts a vigorous Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that sees lengthy scenes, enveloped entirely by composer James Horner's beautiful score, come to life. Despite what would seem to be a heavily favored musical score, the disc displays a wonderful sense of balance, between score, voiceovers, and scenes with dialogue. Voices comes through clean and distinguished, against both the musical score and the sound effects, thanks to the lossless improvement made here to the film's audio. Imaging is incredibly clear and aids in immersing the viewer in the film's environment. Consisting mainly of background noises created by unseen animals and the natural movement of things (grass blowing in the breeze, leaves rustling, etc.), directionality on the disc properly conveys the images represented on the screen.
Additionally, the occasional LFE is energetic and effective without rattling the windows. In essence, the film's audio is as dynamic, yet understated, as the film itself – which is almost certainly what Malick had in mind.
- "Making of The New World"(HD, 82 min) - A comprehensive 10-part documentary that offers an exhaustive look into the production of the film, starting from the casting process through the production itself. This rare peek behind the scenes of a Malick production is a must for any fan of the filmmaker. The documentary breaks the segments down into the following chunks: 'Making the New World,' 'Core Training,' 'Finding Pocahontas,' 'Recreating the Powhatan,' 'Along the Chickahominy River,' 'Jamestown,' 'Werowocomoco,' 'The John Rolfe Plantation,' 'The Battle,' and 'England.'
- Trailers (HD) – Two theatrical trailers for the film are included as well.
There are no HD exclusives.
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'The New World: Extended Cut' is some of Terence Malick's finest work. It stands as a signifier of both his past efforts and those to come; namely, the wildly lyrical and ponderous 'The Tree of Life,' which would continue the devolution of narrative structure that was largely reinserted into this extended cut. What makes The New World such a marvelous film, though, is unequivocally Malick. Here men encased in metal are nearly swallowed whole by blades of grass standing a head taller; minutes go by without a single word being spoken; hearts are broken, but continue to soldier on. The command of central allegory is some of the strongest Malick has displayed in his films, and for those open to seeing the romantic beauty of it, 'The New World: Extended Cut' is well worth three hours of your time.
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