Kate Beckinsale is so hot that when I Googled her name to ensure proper spelling in this review, I was momentarily swept up in my girl-crush, looking through risqué pictures of Kate being Kate. Which is quite possibly why Underworld couldn't even hold me in all my girl-crush glory - Kate doesn't look like Kate. She looks like a video game character who spent too much time at Macy's MAC counter, tended to by drag queens. But at least she's in pleather. However, unless you spent the day playing Dungeons and Dragons in your mother's garage, this sequel will not appeal to you. It's so self-righteously dull and dorky that you'll need to take notes just to follow along. Bilbo Baggins of Lord of The Rings plays vampire royalty whom Kate asks of a mysterious necklace key, "You're familiar with this?"
"Intimately," he replies, and I can't help picturing the hobbit rubbing the necklace on his butt. A little hobbit-on-costume-jewelry action would have made for a much better film. About twenty minutes into the boring history of way too many characters and tacky jewelry, Kate finally gets to kick some ass, killing a blonde vampire with a bad boob job. Just before the Vampire Barbie slaughter, Kate gets naked in two zips (apparently, they wear no underwear in the Underworld.) Like me, you'll be tricked into thinking, "WOW, all this movie needed was a little sex and violence!" But then it gets boring again right away. And after boinking all that makeup off Kate seems to revisit the MAC counter before looking for more vampires whose names you won't remember. I climbed over my seat in the mysteriously crowded theater and reluctantly escaped from Underworld into The New World.
You must believe me when I say I expected The New World to crack me up. I loathe Colin Farrel and looked forward to making fun of his latest film. But The New World was amazing. It's shot like nothing I've ever seen before - like watching someone's dream (and it really was a dream since it turned out that Colin Farrel was not the star.) I don't know where they found, Q'orianka Kilcher, their leading lady, but the movie must have been built around her. She was extraordinary, playing this completely original heroine like a barefoot goddess. Sadly, my only impression of John Smith and Pocahontas' tale was Disney's cartoon in which a pug and raccoon find gay love. The New World recoils from Hollywood's smoke, mirrors and stereotypes, giving us a gritty look at what it was like to hop a ship and end up stranded and scared on the biggest island ever.
I realize the reputation of John Smith and fourteen year-old Pocahontas' love affair is generally pedophile-riffic. But if you think American girls of today grow up fast you ain't seen nothin' like a saucy, free-spirited little savage running around in scraps of leather. She goes nameless throughout the film - referred to as "Princess" or when Smith's mind wanders, "My Love." The poor guy didn't stand a chance. First she saves his life and then she bewitches him with a gorgeous smile and childlike affections. John teaches her English as she teaches him a life of peace without jealousy or malice. The camera follows action through each character's point of view, and their narration is like the senseless ramblings of a diary. The Native Americans in all their warmth and simplicity will make your heart ache as you recall this true story's horrific ending.
John is sent back to the crappy fort erected by starving Englanders. You can practically smell the contrast of what was pure and what is rotten. "Somebody ate his hands," John learns of a desperate and deranged man who committed suicide within the fort. The men keep fighting over a leadership medal like Lord-Of-The-Flies (not to be confused with the jewelry-lovin' hobbits in Lord Of The Rings.) It seems impossible watching the settlers' defeat that America ever grew large enough to bully a genocide on the very people who saved them from starvation. But the movie never goes there. This story is focused on the exiled princess who lost her family and home trying to help the hairy, bearded man she loves. Like most guys, John Smith can't handle the good lovin' of a strong woman and runs away, leaving the broken-hearted princess in the growing colony where she struggles with shoes and laced up dresses. Kilcher is beautiful in her quiet agony. So beautiful that when Christian Bale lays eyes on her he suffers America's first case of Jungle Fever.
I assumed Bale would be playing a weirdo as that is usually his type. And though this role is starchy, he's only a little bit creepy. Bale brings with him a Merchant Ivory feel to this story and it turns into a completely different film, seemingly adapted from a Jane Austin book. At the beginning of the film it feels there are too many dreamlike edits that deter the flow - it's confusing and gives the sense of being lost in a forest (as she's lost in love with Smith.) When Bale comes on the scene the film (and its princess) calm down and move slowly to a new, mature tempo. We're so spoon-fed by the imagery that it feels like a living photo exhibit. We follow the recently baptized princess to England where her agile spirit sparkles even in tight-fitting shoes, just like the eagle kept on a leash inside the palace. The treasured princess finally meets up with John Smith after years as a wife and mother and asks, "Did you find your Indies, John?" He shakes his head no and she sweetly encourages, "You shall."
"I may have sailed past them," Smith admits as he takes in the last of her warmth, almost choking on it. The New World radiates like a children's book and I truly loved it. But I should warn you before buying that matinee ticket (this is not a Friday night movie) that five people walked out on The New World - but no one left Underworld. Maybe if Pocahontas wore pleather and bad makeup? What is this world coming to?
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