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HTF DVD REVIEW: The New World Extended Cut

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#1 of 37 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted October 15 2008 - 02:39 AM


The New World: The Extended Cut

Directed By: Terrence Malick

Cast: Colin Farrell, Q'Orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi


Studio: New Line/Warner Bros.

Year: 2005 (Original Theatrical) 2008 (Extended Cut)

Rated: Unrated

Film Length: 172 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Release Date: October 14, 2008


Terrence Malick's The New World premiered in late 2005 in New York and Los Angeles at a running time of reportedly 150 minutes. By the time it was released widely, Malick had trimmed it down to 135 minutes. When rumors began swirling about a possible DVD release of the an extended cut, I presumed that it would be that 150 minute premiere version, but in fact, this is an even longer cut that runs 172 minutes. Prior to this release, I had not seen any of the theatrical cuts, so I will not be able to do any comparing or contrasting below.

The Film

The New World tells the familiar story surrounding the establishment of the Jamestown colony in Virginia in the early 17th century. The film begins with the arrival of the English settlers led by Captain Newport (Plummer) and including Captain John Smith (Farrell), who arrives in chains due to accusations of non-specified mutinous activities. Spared from the hangman's noose by Newport, who is planning to return to England for additional provisions, Smith is given a chance to redeem himself. He is asked to act as a military envoy to the local "naturals" when violence begins to escalate between the colonists and the natives. Smith is captured and sentenced to be executed until Pocahontas (Kilcher - although her character's name is never mentioned in dialog), the daughter of the chief intervenes on his behalf. Smith spends several weeks living with the tribe, bonding with them and growing closer to Pocahontas, before being released back to his own people. With conditions in the colony deteriorating due to disease and a lack of food, Smith becomes a leader almost by default. He is upset with the lack of industriousness of the settlers, who seem more interested in digging for gold than planting crops, but eventually improves conditions with the aid of Pocahontas, who brings much needed food to the colony as it faces starvation and a harsh winter prior to Newport's return. As the colony establishes itself and the Native Americans realize that they intend to stay, violent conflict occurs, leaving Pocahontas and Smith caught between their obligations to their hearts and their people. Matters are complicated further when colonist tobacco planter John Rolfe falls in love with Pocahontas during a long absence by Smith.

Anyone familiar with the films of Terrence Malick knows that his style is more or less immutable. His films to date are designed to be visually impressionistic, deliberately paced, contemplative, filled with meticulously rendered period detail, and more interested in the poetic and philosophical possibilities of their plots, characters, and environments than in narrative momentum. The fact that so few Hollywood films of any scale get made from a perspective even resembling his approach arguably makes him one of the most important American filmmakers of the last few decades. Even those who find his films tedious tend to acknowledge that he exploits the film medium in a way that his peers seem to have all but abandoned.

Given the uniformity of style, Malick's films succeed or fail based on how well they lend themselves to his approach, and The New World is a very good match to his methods. Anyone familiar with the story of John Smith, Pocahontas, and John Rolfe, will find an only slightly skewed (by movie standards) telling rendered with a strong eye for period detail. Dramatic embellishments include the conceit of portraying Smith and Pocahontas as lovers which is employed by nearly every dramatization of the story to date, increasing the age of Pocahontas (via casting - her actual age is never discussed), and portraying her Native American tribe as more idealistically peaceful than they actually were. The latter is likely related to Malick's intention to dramatically extrapolate the interior lives of his characters, largely through his favored device of interior voiceover first person narrative. Smith would not necessarily be aware of the tribe's history of conflict, and living with them during a time of peace, he could understandably have perceived their society as something of an unspoiled Eden.

Visually, Malick emphasizes the "stranger in a strange land" aspects of Smith's experiences through suggestions of an infinite uncorrupted wilderness outside of the Jamestown settlement. Pocahontas' fish out of water experiences are represented in similarly vivid terms, particularly in the final reels when the action moves to London. During these sequences, most exterior shots emphasize the urban structures of the city. When any sort of fauna is viewed, it is usually highly trimmed and shaped trees and hedges suggesting man imposing his will over nature.

With minimal dialog and maximal first person voiceover, one could cynically assess the actors job in this and any other Malick film as consisting of little more than staying in frame and hitting their marks. In fact, the cast is required to do a specifically cinematic style of acting that is heavily reliant on movement and expression without degenerating into broad pantomime. Colin Farrell's John Smith carries the first third of the film, although it is almost 20 minutes before he has a word of spoken dialog. The film's middle third gradually brings Q'orianka Kilcher's Pocahontas to the fore, making her the central character for the final third. Both Farrell and Kilcher work successfully in concert with the deliberately poetic visuals to convey the inner lives of their characters in a way consistent with Malick's vision.

The Video

The 16:9 enhanced 2.35:1 transfers suffers from near constant ringing along high contrast vertical edges. The ringing is low in intensity, but becomes very obvious on large projection displays, obscuring rather than enhancing fine detail. This is a disappointment in an otherwise excellent transfer that renders Malick's "visual poetry" with solid color and contrast, natural light film grain and decent video compression.

The Audio

Audio is available via an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track and an English 2.0 matrixed Pro-Logic track. Both tracks are reportedly optimized/re-equalized for home theater viewing. The 5.1 track is outstanding, supporting the visuals with an immersive mix filled with ambient sounds and restrained use of score that strongly complements the visuals. Part of Malick's signature style involves heavily immersive soundtracks that work in concert with the poetic shots of natural beauty. The crickets almost deserve a credit in the cast list - or at least SAG cards for their speaking parts.

The Extras

There are no on-disc extras. The disc comes packaged with an insert with a code that will allow viewers to download a Windows-compatible digital copy of the film. iPods and Mac computers are not supported.

Packaging

The DVD comes in a standard Amaray case with an insert containing the code for unlocking the digital copy. The case is inserted inside a cardboard slipcase that reproduces the art for the hard case exactly with no enhancements or embossments.

Summary

Terrence Malick's The New World is a visually poetic, meticulously detailed rendering of the familiar story of Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, John Rolfe, and the Jamestown Virginia colony of the early 17th century. This extended cut of the film is presented on disc with visuals marred by frequent ringing along high contrast vertical edges. Audio is outstanding with an enjoyably immersive Dolby Digital 5.1 track with excellent fidelity. There are no extras on the disc, although it comes packaged with a code that unlocks a download of a digital copy of the film.

Regards,

Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#2 of 37 OFFLINE   Nicholas Martin

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Posted October 15 2008 - 04:22 AM

According to the DVDTalk review, the score was changed. Does anyone know if that means the original score was restored to the film, at least in part, or is that Wagner music still all over it? Does the film make more sense now? I was confused as hell and vowed never to watch the theatrical cut again because of that, so is this significantly different?

#3 of 37 OFFLINE   Matthew Clayton

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Posted October 15 2008 - 07:45 AM

So is this extended cut a carryover from NL that they didn't get to release on DVD themselves? Maybe they were waiting to get some good bonus content before they were folded into WB. And does the disc open with a NL logo or the WHV logo after the FBI warning?

#4 of 37 OFFLINE   Ed St. Clair

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Posted October 15 2008 - 11:17 AM

FINALLY!!! BIG thx!
Movies are: "The Greatest Artform".
HD should be for EVERYONE!

#5 of 37 OFFLINE   Aragorn the Elfstone

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Posted October 15 2008 - 05:22 PM

All good things come to those who wait. Posted Image

I just finished watching this. Wow! I fracking loved it. Posted Image

While I admired the original cut (mostly for its visuals and use of music), I never felt pulled in. The characters seemed to distant to me. Despite the numerous VOs, I never felt I knew them.

I don't know what it was about the new footage that did it - but I was completely and utterly emotionally enthralled when watching the new cut. This film conveys such enormous emotional power while remaining incredibly subtle. Whereas before I felt the lack of dialogue was a problem in the film, now the breathing room given to the film allows you to fully absorb the characters without needing the spoken word. You feel their emotions.

The love stories in this film had me in pieces at the end of the film - and that is something I don't think I can completely say of the original cut. This is a case of the original version being (for me) an admirable historical drama with great acting and cinematography, while the extended cut is one of the most emotional and awe-inspiring masterworks I have seen in quite some time.

I believe I have a new Best Picture for 2005.

#6 of 37 OFFLINE   Nicholas Martin

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Posted October 15 2008 - 08:35 PM

Fracking?

#7 of 37 OFFLINE   Bryan Beckman

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Posted October 15 2008 - 10:09 PM

Regarding James Horner's score, I've listened to it many times on the Internet. It contains some beautiful motifs. Typical of much of Horner's recent work, though, it repeats them over and over and over. It's also quite similar to the synthesized vocals in "Titanic" and his work in "Braveheart." I believe that by dramatically paring back the use of Horner's work in the film (by substituting Wagner and Mozart for it in several places), Malick preserves the power of those notes when heard for the first time, such as in the scenes surrounding Rolfe and Pocahontas' marriage and then in the end scene between them as they walk along a path in England, which is one of the most beautiful moments in film I've ever experienced. I think the impact of those scenes would be dramatically reduced if the musical accompaniment was essentially the same stuff we've been hearing again and again. Of course, I'm an ardent defender of the film, so I'm completely biased in my remarks. I've also not yet seen the extended cut, and may need to wait a few days until I have three hours of available time in my schedule to do so. So everything I've said regarding the score may be rendered completely moot in the new version. But I get the feeling there hasn't been any radical re-editing in this longer cut.
 

#8 of 37 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted October 15 2008 - 11:41 PM

It carries the New Line logo. Warner is distributing it, though as they are no longer functioning independently. I probably should have listed New Line as the studio in my review, so I think I will fix that after I finish posting this. Posted Image

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
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#9 of 37 OFFLINE   Aragorn the Elfstone

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Posted October 16 2008 - 01:57 AM


Well that's embarrassing. Posted Image No use making a reference like that if I can't get the spelling right. Posted Image

#10 of 37 OFFLINE   Tim-H.

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Posted October 16 2008 - 03:22 AM

That's why I use felgercarb; even if people don't get the reference, they still know you're a nerd. I was really moved by this in the theater, and will have to get this cut. Thanks for the review!
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#11 of 37 OFFLINE   Nicholas Martin

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Posted October 16 2008 - 03:47 AM


No need to tell me about the score, being one of the biggest fans of his in existence, I know his music inside and out, all of it. Ever. Posted Image

In a September 2006 audio interview, Horner made some rather brutally honest comments about The New World, an experience that left him more frustrated and disappointed than he's ever felt before.

According to Horner, Malick was restructuring the film endlessly, right up to the end.

Scenes were placed out of chronological order, instead going for a more randomized, abstract approach that, was simply not workable for a flowing piece of film score.

Working with Malick's film editor (Star Wars editor Richard Chew) and the full support of New Line, a chronological cut of the film was set up for Horner to score, and the album version of it represents that 'editor's cut'.

When that cut was played back in stages throughout the scoring, it moved everyone to tears, NOT because of the music, but because the film itself was so beautiful. Malick himself was completely cold to the whole thing and went back to restructuring the film as he did previously.

Eventually, Chew and Horner left along with the other assistant editors because they were fed up and thought Malick was simply not the "genius" he's been made out to be, taking what was to be a great sensical telling of Pocahontas and John Smith and making something that, while beautiful to watch, was just confusing. (Put me in the confused crowd, I thought I wasn't smart or refined enough to understand it originally)

So the score simply didn't fit anymore and outside music had to be sourced, and while Horner didn't mind that at all, because he's not concerned about his music as much as he's concerned about supporting the film, but he hated the Wagner choice because of how heavy and thick that sound was for such delicate, beautiful imagery.
Horner and Co. were left let down, because they felt Malick didn't deliver the film he said he would. If Malick had left the film in its more chronological flowing state, it would have been exactly what he promised, but he tore it apart.

As a film, I simply didn't get it. It made no sense to me. I would be more than willing to see it again if the film was altered to be a bit more understandable in this extended cut, regardless of whether the music was changed or not, because it was indeed a visually stunning film.

If anyone would like to hear that portion of the interview themselves, let me know.

#12 of 37 OFFLINE   townsend

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Posted October 16 2008 - 08:44 AM

I found both the review and all the comments quite interesting. Thanks. I've got but two comments: 1) I didn't get it either, in fact I was (almost bitterly) disappointed because I was looking forward to enjoying the film. I'm a huge fan of Malick's The Thin Red Line and Days of Heaven, and I especially like historical epic types movies (generally, 19th century or earlier). While The New World was great to look at, after awhile I found myself looking at my watch . . . I gradually became disinterested. For a movie about the clash between Native Americans and Europeans (whether directly from Europe or after inhabiting the new world), I far prefer Black Robe. 2) I will probably try to rent the extended cut, but it won't do it for me. Why? Well, supposedly Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, which was mutilated on the chopping block for theatrical release, all came together in the extended cut released on DVD. I saw both. Perhaps the extended cut had bettering pacing and certain gaps were filled in, but I didn't really get into it either. So I doubt the extended cut of TNW will change my opinion. Nonetheless, I am still looking forward to Malick's next movie, Tree of Life. He's just too good when he's on. YMMV.

#13 of 37 OFFLINE   Paul Case

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Posted October 17 2008 - 01:11 AM

I don't get the continued references to a "chronological" cut of The New World. The theatrical cut is chronological, as is the extended cut. It doesn't jump forward and backward in time. It starts with the arrival of John Smith in North America and ends with Pocahontas' visit to England. Everything in between happens in a clear and distinctly chronological order. The film is languid in its treatment of those events and fills much of its time with internal monlogues and lengthy shots of natural scenery, but nothing is out of order. There are no jump out of the established narrative timeline. That's Pulp Fiction, not The New World. Perhaps those who refer to chronology are actually referring to the lack of narrative momentum that Ken mentions in his review?

#14 of 37 OFFLINE   Bryan Beckman

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Posted October 17 2008 - 02:37 AM

Now here's a surprise: the digital copy included with the DVD is not the extended cut, nor the 135-minute theatrical cut, but the 150-minute NY/LA cut.

I've not had time to view the entire movie, but I did a few point-by-point comparisons with this blog post, and those things the author mentions as being in the first cut are there. The winter-to-spring transition in particular is a shot I don't remember from the 135-minute version.

I'm not sure if this is an error on Warner's part, but this is a huge boon to those of us who love the movie and are curious to compare the differences between all three versions without shelling out for the Italian PAL 2-disc set. The audio of course is 2.0.
 

#15 of 37 OFFLINE   Nicholas Martin

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Posted October 17 2008 - 04:39 AM

Perhaps. When I saw the theatrical version, events were taking place that jumped ahead to something else, and it happened so often that I didn't know what was going on, or why events had changed, and it was just confusing. Someone once said that "Watching The New World is like watching someone's recollection of a dream about a movie" - quoted from another messageboard I frequent, and that's accurate - to me anyway. This is one film that people will either A) see as this abstract visual feast of art or B) a totally confusing visual feast that leaves the viewer frustrated.

#16 of 37 OFFLINE   Elijah Sullivan

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Posted October 17 2008 - 02:11 PM

Download the Academy workprint for free w/purchase?! Whoa!

Personally, I'm not at all a fan of James Horner, and his feud with Malick strikes me as absurd, as Horner simply was not the director of this film. He was hired to do a job. His input ends with delivering the sound-bytes called for by the director.

The film itself is marvelous, and was quite pleased overall with the 135min version that I saw in the cinema. This extended version is welcome, and I've already ordered it, but it is rather sad to see that it sports less-than-flawless image. A Blu-Ray disc would be a boon to filmgoers. Also, wasn't this supposed to arrive with a slew of documentaries?

Townsend: Funny, because I was bored to tears by Black Robe, which I found xenophobic and sloppy, and awed by The New World.

#17 of 37 OFFLINE   Bryan Beckman

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Posted October 17 2008 - 03:30 PM

The press release said it would come with the same documentary that was on the previous DVD release. But they lied. Eh, that's OK - getting the Academy workprint is a FAR better bonus. I just hope that I'm not the only one who has (or will) benefit from this quirk regarding the digital download.
 

#18 of 37 OFFLINE   Nicholas Martin

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Posted October 17 2008 - 08:25 PM

Being a fan or not is irrelevant. The point is simple, Horner DID do what he was supposed to do, but Malick changed everything as they went along, leaving an incoherent assemblage of shots to work with, only to have the music thrown out not because it wasn't what Malick wanted, but because it did not fit the film anymore after Malick's endless revisions. In the end it was easier to source some classical pieces in, which were fine except the classical selections themselves were the antithesis of the original musical ideas. I saw the film as soon as it hit DVD release, which was long before this audio interview was recorded. Therefore, that didn't influence my opinion of the film - I was confused as hell prior to all of this, and this interview, revealing some of the post-production issues, merely helped clear things up a bit. That's why I posted this, because it was a key member of the crew speaking out, and positive or not, I thought it was something others should know about. The remarks were quite harsh, and Malick fans certainly wouldn't enjoy hearing him portrayed unfavorably, though it was out of disappointment, not out of pointless insults which did not happen.

#19 of 37 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted October 18 2008 - 02:11 PM

I loved the New World when i saw it in a theater during it's initial run. I teared up as i realized the movie was coming to an end. As the credits hit the screen i heard many people say "that's it?" and one genius say "is that F@#$ing all?" I wanted to wait for this new cut to e on blu before i bought but this 150 min extra might be changing my mind. what do i need to be able to watch that digital copy? also i noticed this cover art is the same as the Best Buy exclusive art, when this was first released 2 years ago.
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#20 of 37 OFFLINE   Bryan Beckman

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Posted October 18 2008 - 02:23 PM

Inside the DVD case is a paper insert with a code on it. You need to have the extended cut DVD in your computer's DVD-ROM drive for the Web link to work. After entering the code, you'll be redirected to the CinemaNow site to download their movie manager program (joy) and download the entire 2.47GB file to your hard drive. I probably wouldn't have gone through all that hassle if it weren't for the fact that it was my first time trying out the whole digital copy thing and I wanted to see if I could download a portable version of the movie for my Dell Axim. (It didn't work.) It was only after the download finished that I noticed the runtime was 150 minutes - which at first I thought might be a mistake. So I spot-checked a few scenes and sure enough, it's the Academy workprint. Again, I'm not sure if this is an unintentional error (since the insert clearly advertises getting a digital copy of the extended cut) or if this is Warner's gift to the film's fans. If it's the former, and the workprint isn't supposed to be in active distribution, I recommend people take advantage of this offer soon before Warner/CinemaNow corrects their mistake.
 





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