Part 8: In Which the Shit Hits the Fan
How Do You Solve A
Problem Like Pocahontas?
how it could have been good!

Start at the beginning of this series or catch up on previous posts on the table of contents. Remember to hover over anything in red for extra commentary!

Now that our characters have some comprehensible motivation, conflicts, and a universe whose metaphysics makes sense, let's see what happens to all these forces that have been set in motion...

The scene at the willow tree plays out in roughly the same way, except that it’s in proximity to a plant that actually belongs in Virginia. We cut out Grandmother Willow’s preaching, Percy and Meeko fighting and its painfully obvious allegory, not to mention the godawful “See, once two sides want to fight, nothing can stop them.” (groan…)


Fuck off and die, all of you.

That goes for you too, willow tree in the background!

Instead, Pocahontas & John Smith talk about the political situation and form a plan like mature adults. It goes something like this:

POCAHONTAS: Come with me, and I’ll help you talk to my father.

JOHN: Pocahontas, talking isn’t going to do any good. I’ve already tried talking to my men, but the Governor has threatened death to anyone who even tries to negotiate.

POCAHONTAS: Including you?

JOHN: Most definitely including me.

POCAHONTAS: I know! Then I’ll bring the eagle, and make it understood to your men. It will be our ambassador.

JOHN: I told you, they won’t hear reason.

POCAHONTAS: Somehow I think a talking eagle will be enough to get them to take notice.

JOHN: And you would need to be there?

POCAHONTAS: Of course. They’re not going to understand an eagle on their own, are they?

JOHN: Look, I don’t think you quite realize how unstable the whole situation is. And any hint of sorcery, they won’t react well, most certainly not from a woman.

POCAHONTAS: Don’t worry, I’m used to it.

JOHN: It’s not the same. Your people see your powers, and they take them for granted. If my men saw your powers, they’d have you executed on the spot for witchcraft.

POCAHONTAS: Can’t you prevent that?

JOHN: I’m already just one step away from hanging for treason myself!

POCAHONTAS: All right—so do you have a better idea?

JOHN: (awkward silence)

POCAHONTAS: Well, first things first. Come with me, and we’ll sort the rest out together.

JOHN: You’re right, let’s go talk to your father.

This reworking has several benefits in developing Pocahontas, John, their romance, Ratcliffe, the English settlers, and the upcoming fight scene.

Our romantic leads make out, of course. Kocoum sees them and is enraged. When Pocahontas and John are ambushed making out, our visual cues for the translation spell have to get zapped into oblivion since she’s overwhelmed.



We’ll cut to Pocahontas’s face so we can tell we’re seeing this from her point of view so we the viewer can understand her telling Kocoum to stop.

It makes absolutely no sense for Thomas to be involved at this point, so he's going to have to come in later. This does mean we miss out on one of the better expressions of the movie:


Oh, shocked little Christian Bale, you have no idea how much it hurts me to cut these adorable eyebrows out of my draft.

During the fight, we’ll cut to him wandering aimlessly, and he hears the commotion (and Pocahontas screaming in her own language, since Thomas hasn’t been enchanted) and goes running after it.

Back at the fight scene, John manages to wrest the knife away from him, Kocoum pulls out another one, and comes after John again. John tries to brandish his knife defensively, Kocoum tries to outmaneuver him, and John reflexively stabs him in the chest and Kocoum collapses.

The pulling the necklace with his dead weight is a nice touch, so I don’t mind if it’s left in. Pocahontas starts to say something like “Kocoum, how could you? Why?”

It’s basically this.

Say what you will about the mid-90s, they certainly knew how to sob “Why?!”

She also says something along the lines of “What are we going to do now?” so we the audience know she’s more distraught & shocked about the situation (and of course the implosion of her carefully-planned setup for how she was going to show her father how useful she could be to manage a volatile situation competently) rather than for Kocoum himself. But, it should be ambiguous to John whether or not she’s grieving for Kocoum.

Thomas bursts on the scene, and he and John exchange glances so we’re seeing this from their point of view now. Pocahontas is just generally distraught and sobbing over Kocoum’s corpse, but now we can’t understand it. Thomas is shocked and asks John “What have you done?” and John super defensively says “I had no choice!” Thomas looks very concerned as he looks at Pocahontas sobbing, as this is the first time he’s been confronted with the Native Americans’ humanity and the consequences of the kill-them-all blather he’s been engaging in. He starts to offer a hand to her, stops himself, looks to John for guidance. John looks blankly back, and just then we hear the rest of the braves arriving, and John orders Thomas to leave. He runs off, the braves grab John, and this time Pocahontas actually tries to speak up (unlike the real version, where again, our strong-via-informed-attribute heroine does fuck-all! grumblegrumblegrumble). The nuance being that, since she’s so overwhelmed by the situation, she’s forgotten to re-enchant everyone so John can tell what’s going on, so he can’t quite tell if she’s defending him or accusing him. We’re still hearing this from John’s point of view and thus it’s unintelligible, and he gives her a very poignant, pleading look as they drag him off.

Back at the village, Kocoum gets carried in, John gets dragged before Powhatan, Powhatan announces that John will die at sunrise. Pocahontas actually speaks up more effectively this time and says that they were just talking (for fairly obvious reasons, she declines to tell her father about the steamy making out), and that Kocoum attacked them.

POCAHONTAS: I tried to tell him to stop, and he just wouldn’t listen!

POWHATAN: Is this how you speak of a man who gave his life to protect you?

POCAHONTAS: To protect me? He threw me to the ground like an empty corn husk! He was defending his ambitions, not me!

POWHATAN: How dare you! What I would give to have a daughter worthy of such a great warrior and my dear friend.

POCAHONTAS: Fine, think what you like of me, but let John go. He had to defend his life and—

POWHATAN: Defend his life? These beasts invade our land, threaten our people, and destroy everything in their path, and you sympathize with them? What about our lives? What about defending ourselves? Take him away!

Pocahontas is left alone, and Nakoma comes up to her. Instead of that godawful, Stockholmy “Kocoum was just trying to protect me,” Pocahontas says something more along the lines of “I still can’t believe it. I guess in my heart I knew to beware of Kocoum. I still never imagined he would do that.”


Unfortunately, not published in 1607.

Nakoma confesses she sent Kocoum after her (an apology which actually makes sense now, and you’re welcome!), and takes her to see John Smith in the jail tent (or whatever that thing is), and it makes more sense now that Pocahontas is in so much trouble that they might have plausibly not let her in without Nakoma to vouch for her (in the original, why the hell doesn’t it occur to her on her own to visit him?).

Pocahontas goes to John, conjures up a translation spell, and apologizes to him that all her efforts have been in vain. He says he’s grateful that she tried, and the rest of this scene basically plays out as previously written. I’d keep “If I Never Knew You” in the final version. It is quite lovely, and hopefully now that these characters have been fleshed out a bit we will actually care to have them share a quiet moment together (plus, someone better than Mel Gibson would be singing, which would be a relief!). Of course, it would need to have all-original animation, not the recycled Colors of the Wind images they put on the Anniversary DVD. Lazy.

Join us next time for the thrilling conclusion!

This post originally appeared on on Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Many thanks to the following reviews for helping me crystalize all the thoughts that were bugging me about this film:

No comments:

Post a Comment

About the Author

Satiricalifragilistic grew up during the Disney Renaissance, and The Little Mermaid was the first movie she ever saw in theaters at age 3. Her mother flatly refused to let her leave the theater when Ursula got huge and terrifying, and maybe that explains her troubled psyche.

While she'll admit to being an inveterate nitpicker, she firmly believes in loving a piece of art even while criticizing it, and in the importance of engaging critically with what she loves. She has special contempt for anyone who tries to claim the politics in Disney films don't matter because "they're just movies," because she knows exactly how much the Disney Canon influenced her little gradeschool self—for good and for ill!

She loves art, design, music, dancing, movies from Hollywood's Golden Age, and British comedy...expect a lot of these to turn up in her reviews and mashups!