Thursday, August 22, 2013

Disney Sequelester - Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

Is this... is this what joy feels like?
Please fasten all your seatbelts and keep your limbs inside the vehicles. THIS MOVIE IS ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD.

I know! I know!!!! Pocahontas is one of the most widely criticized Disney movies, hell, maybe THE most widely criticized Disney movie. And I think that Pocahontas is one of the least liked Disney princesses - half the time she doesn't even make it into pictures of the main cast.

"Sorry bitch, this tea party's full!"
That being said, I've explained at length why I think Pocahontas gets a bad rap. To summarize: Hollywood History is never accurate, and Pocahontas isn't boring, plus she's one of the few Disney princesses to have any power of her own (Mulan and Jasmine being the other two). Her story is the only kingship story of any Disney movie.

Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World is interesting because I think Disney might have made it solely to try to silence their critics. If that was the case, it didn't work: all Disney sequels have ever done is make the company look bad. But that might be undeserved in this one instance. This is a solid movie with good writing and construction. Its only downside is some not-so-stellar animation, but there's nothing the makers of this movie could do about that.

Much like its predecessor, there's a few interesting tidbits surrounding the making of Pocahontas II. While Mel Gibson didn't reprise his goal as John Smith's voice, his younger brother Donal Gibson did. Mmkay? Then there's the historical stuff. In the movie, Ratcliffe is restored to his former glory upon to return to England, and convinces the King that there is really for sure this time gold in America. He kills John Smith, and the Queen forces her husband to send an envoy to America. John Rolfe shows up and takes Pocahontas back with him because someone Pocahontas will be able to prove whether or not there's gold in her country.

In real life, Pocahontas did travel to England in that year, but she was called Rebecca by then: she'd been baptized a Christian, married John Rolfe, and had a son with him. It's pretty evident from letters that John Rolfe was in love with Pocahontas, but there's no telling whether or not Pocahontas herself saw it as a political alliance. By the time Pocahontas reached England Ratcliffe had been dead for three years. She did see John Smith while she was there, but it wasn't a happy reunion; Pocahontas felt betrayed by Smith because he wouldn't let her call him father... I don't know guys, history is weird.

On to the movie!

Two seconds in and you can tell this is not the John Smith of the first movie. The old John Smith… well, I guess he had a sense of humor? He laughed at things occasionally? This one punts goons off balconies and says things like, "Thanks for dropping by!" He's kind of annoying, which is probably intentional. Anyway, Ratcliffe shows up on the roof with him after the fight (on the roof... do you remember what this guy looks like? How did he get up there?) and oh no John Smith is clearly dead forever.

Back in Cannibal City, Amurrica, a ship is arriving.

Good thing she always happens to be standing there
when ships come in, right?
The villagers and Indians are sort of getting along, which leads to some weird anachronisms.

But some of the villagers have a Karate-Kid-Villain-style hatred for Indians, which causes them to attack Pocahontas even though they're like a zillion years old and probably suffering from syphilis and gout, and she does swan dives off cliffs and can kick their butts.

Why do you look scared?
Enter John Rolfe, who says the word "honor" more times than Edward Cullen and always has a hat for the occasion (what occasion? ANY occasion).

Yes good plan RIDE your horse off the ship.
The drums of waaaaaaaaaaar break out basically instantly, and John Rolfe rushes up to help Pocahontas. This is their first exchange:

Rolfe: I was trying to help!
Pocahontas: I didn't ask for your help!
Rolfe: You didn't say thank you either. Whatever happened to manners and etiquette?
Pocahontas: Well, since you are new here, I don't expect you to have them yet.

Yessssss I love it (although I'm amused that his initial reaction isn't OMG YOU ARE BROWN). Anyway, the relationship between John Rolfe and Pocahontas is really what's so fantastic about this movie, for two reasons:
A) John Rolfe is the first and really only atypical hero that comes as a matched set with a Disney princess. He's a stylish courtier concerned with manners and etiquette, not a warrior.

Look at that adorable pout.
B) He treats Pocahontas like a person. Once she earns his respect (by being mannerly - she thanks him on the boat - do you love it or do you love it), he treats her as an equal, and the screenwriting in this is actually good enough that you can see his feelings grow deeper over the course of the movie.

One of the Indians protests any involvement with the white man: "They only want our land! They mean to destroy us!" Since this is 100% true, I'm deeply amused at how Pocahontas is treated like a hero by the movie for chastising him.

Pocahontas decides to go to England after consulting her freaky tree demon that really does not fit with the tone of this movie. The tree says, "I told you to listen with your heart. Now it is time to listen to your heart," aka "Remember Ariel? TIME TO GET A MAN."

Another note: I really like that this movie continues her friendship from the first movie. Solid female friendships in kid's movies are vanishingly rare.

Emotion! Ladies allowed to display emotion for each other!
Her father sends Uttamatomakkin (hereby known as Utta) to accompany Pocahontas. I freaking love this character, but also, this was a real person who really did go with Pocahontas on her ill-fated voyage to England. The real Utta was a Powhatan shaman who, upon attempts to convert him to Christianity, said that he was too old to learn new ways. LOL. And after he met the King of England, he said this to John Smith: "You gave Powhatan a white dog, which Powhatan fed as himself, but your King gave me nothing, and I am better than your white dog." ILU UTTA

This guy is my everything-spiration.
In spite of my annoyance with token moohahaha villains picking fights with Pocahontas for no reason, her transition to friendship with John Rolfe on the boat works really well. When he fends off her attackers, Pocahontas realizes that he's a decent person, and when Pocahontas thanks him, John Rolfe's requirement for proper etiquette is observed. Fabulous.

Now that is a man that doesn't even need the garters he so
stylishly wears, am I right my friends?
They get to England and there's a semi-okay song about life in London. The best part by far is when Pocahontas climbs a tree to see better and John Rolfe frantically calls after her: "Pocahontas, would you like to join me? On the ground? This instant?"

My but you're looking neat and clean, London.
It's only when they're in London that Ratcliffe enacts his most nefarious scheme of all: A BALL.

Dun dun DUN.
The King tells John Rolfe, "Prove to me at the Hunt Ball that she is as civilized as you say and I shall stop my armada." Well shit, a whole lot of wars could've been avoided if we'd just thrown more balls, huh? What the hell is this arms budget you're bringing me? INVEST IT ALL IN PARTY CITY.

What does this call for? A MAKEOVER MONTAGE. But the fun part of this one is that the hero gets to take part, because what are his skills? Etiquette! In all honesty this is a pretty brilliant use of this trope.

Pocahontas do not assault his eyes with your underthings
They get to the ball and it's jacket required.

This movie really does have funny moments.
The ball goes well until Ratcliffe sets up a bear-baiting station. John Rolfe begs them to stop, because Pocahontas doesn't understand, but the king says, "Nonsense, everyone loves a good bear-baiting!"

So true.
Of course Pocahontas wigs out and gets thrown in jail. It's up to John Rolfe to save her!

0 points for efficiency, but as ever, full marks for style.
Thankfully, John Smith is around to help.

This is Utta's face when they show up at the prison.
Just so you know.
"All this time you were alive... Why didn't you write to me?"
Uhh, because you can't read English?
The movie makes a fantastic use of its ten-or-so minutes before they have to resolve the plot to really establish the differences between the two leading men.

And then there's Utta.

Also Utta can run over exploding bridges because Utta is the man.

In a love triangle between John Smith and John Rolfe, I
pick Utta.
As soon as they're free, the men start to argue about what Pocahontas should do, and it makes it absolutely clear why John Rolfe is the best ever without villainizing John Smith.

Smith: "If she goes back there, they'll hang her!"
Rolfe: "Are you suggesting she turn her back on them?"
Smith: "Are you suggesting she die for them?"
Rolfe: "Well, she can't just sit and watch."
Smith: "She has no choice!"
Rolfe: "Of course she has a choice!"

And then of course Pocahontas goes running off. John Smith goes running after her, but...

Rolfe: "Let her go."
Smith: "You may not care about her safety..."
Rolfe: "Don't you DARE tell me I don't care about her!"

Which is exactly the point, of course. Rolfe cares about Pocahontas enough to respect her as a person. If she was a man, everyone would expect Pocahontas to be willing to die for her people. Why should he expect anything less of her?

Utta can run with a dog on his head.
Pocahontas does some soul-searching with the colors of the wind and decides, of course, to try again to appeal to the King and save her people. John Smith tells her she's crazy. John Rolfe smiles, brings out her mother's necklace, and says, "I thought you might need whatever power this holds for you." He doesn't understand it, but he doesn't need to understand it if it's important to Pocahontas UGH JOHN ROLFE IN THIS MOMENT YOU ARE MANNERLY AND PERFECT.

So yeah, they fight Ratcliffe on a boat in the rain (of course it's raining). John Rolfe saves Pocahontas while yelling for her to help him with something, because the screenwriters really wanted me to love them.

And then it's off to happily ever after in Cannibal City. John Smith gets a ship and assumes that Pocahontas will go with him... she does not. He wishes her happiness and literally backs off the screen, which is unintentionally hilarious.

"I'll just... be going."
John Rolfe goes with Pocahontas, and Utta stays with John Rolfe's absent-minded housekeeper. Because the moral of this review is that Utta is perfect.



  1. I swear I saw this movie. I don't remember anything but her getting dressed up for the ball. John Rolfe was nice and everything, but by the time I agreed to watch this movie, I had literally just finished a research paper on Pocahontas, after which I was convinced John Rolfe forced Pocahontas to conform, thus indirectly causing her death. So...yeah, I don't think I liked this movie. But then again, while I liked the first one just fine (though I LOVE the soundtrack), it's on the bottom of my list of watchable Disney movies. Not the very bottom. That's reserved for The Princess and the Frog. You don't want to get me started. I can't talk about it without going off on a tangent. *grr*

    I love Utta's outfit up there. Lol!

    1. WHAT NO come back and rant about Princess and the Frog!!!! I want to hear!!!

  2. Haha! Well...I'll try to keep this short. Lol!

    I appreciate them finally getting to black princess because they've included the entire scope of everyone else. As a movie, it was fine. I had no fundamental problems with the story line as a whole. But five minutes into the movie, I started comparing her to the other Disney Princesses.

    First thing, there was no chemistry between her and the frog and that whole debacle felt entirely forced. She got the worst prince of all. He was vain and lazy and useless and added nothing whatsoever to her life and only "fell" for her because he was forced to hang out with her because it was only way to get what wanted.

    Then, Tiana (and I hated her name) had to work like a dog her entire life to get what SHE wanted. In order to get the prince she had to get turned into a frog. In order to open her restaurant she had to scrape like a dog to come up with the down payment. And before all this, she had been working like a dog her entire life.

    I appreciate the message, I do. But NONE of the other princesses had to work like a dog when they weren't being forced to. None of the other princesses were conned by a crappy, sorry excuse for a prince. None of the other princesses ended up with someone who didn't really love them (because I wasn't buying it. His character arc was weak.) All the other princesses were an integral part of their stories from the get-go, but Tiana got swept up in the prince's crap. And ALL of the other princesses had help at some point, or didn't need help because they had their own power, and Tiana had none of these things.

    Ariel was the sea king's daughter and had Sebastian, Flounder, her Father & even Eric fighting for her.
    Cinderella had the fairy godmother, and before her father died she was well-loved and pampered.
    Aurora had 3 freaking fairies and royalty parents and the prince fell for her and fought hard to save her.
    Pocahontas was the chief's daughter and had a talking tree and a TON of clout.
    Mulan had a magic dragon and was the daughter of a well-respected community leader.
    Belle had a whole mansion full of enchanted crap to help her.
    Nala (Lol!) and Simba grew up together.
    Jasmine was the sultan's daughter and her and Aladdin had chemistry right away.
    Snow White was the King's daughter and had a whole house of little men looking out for her. Not to mention, being the fairest of them all is nothing to sneer at.
    Even Lady had Tramp and he totally dug her and she grew up in a nice cushy house.

    What did Tiana have? Nothing.
    Where did she come from? Nowhere.
    Who's daughter was she? NO ONE'S!

    There was nothing special about her and there was something special about EVERYONE else. They were strong. They were compassionate. They cared deeply about their people. All Tiana cared about was opening her restaurant.

    The other princesses were all integral parts of their stories. That frog prince was the catalyst and he could have dragged anyone down to his level. It didn't have to be her.

    So it just pissed me off that they were using the one black princess to teach a lesson about working hard to achieve your dreams and there being nothing wrong with being average. It's just not balanced. Why is the black girl the only one who had to work like a dog with absolutely no help from anyone? Why is the black girl the only one who wasn't an integral part of her story? Why did the black girl get the sorriest, laziest, most irredeemable prince out of the entire lot? Why couldn't Tiana be treated like everyone else? Why couldn't she have any of those things? Why was her story told in American Louisiana instead of, I don't know, ANYWHERE else you can find black people? Pocahontas may have been historical inaccurate, but at least she was important and John Smith wasn't forced to love her.

    I never want to see that movie again.

    1. That's a really interesting point and one I hadn't heard before! I'm gonna do some thinking on that. Thanks so much for writing it up!