The original Pocahontas was an interesting attempt at creating a Disney cartoon using a story from Colonial America. Interesting, of course, because they used the inconsistent tale of an explorer to create a story that didn’t even match up with the story he told. John Smith was an adventurer, and purportedly a rather good one, but the most anyone usually knows of his story is that he was saved by a girl who may have just intended to mess with her dad because she was a brat. Really, we don’t know much about the truth of this story, but hey, its a nice dramatic ending. So, essentially they took about fifteen seconds of story and made an 80 minute movie out of it. However, this being Disney, that tactic actually kind of worked, though more recently people have been coming down on the movie rather hard, perhaps deservedly so.
However, there is a much more interesting story of Pocahontas that Disney actually did tell, in a round about way.
After she supposedly saved John Smith, he was injured, though not by taking a bullet as per the film. He survived his trip back to England, but the natives were told he was dead. After this, Pocahontas met John Rolfe, and eventually married him. She would later find out that Smith was still alive when she traveled to England. The two had a child together, and she apparently met King James once but didn’t realize it until it was later explained to her. She died early in the year after she journeyed to England. So, much like the first movie, Disney decided to take a few tiny pieces from the real story and pool them to create an abysmal 1998 direct to video sequel, Pocahontas II: Journey to the New World.
The movie opens with John Smith, spewing one-liners and kicking swords as a group of ninja soldiers hunt him down. No, they seriously are ninjas, as they make it to a balcony with no apparent entry point and no ladder rather high on the rooftops of London Town. Here, we see Ratcliffe return for no good reason, saying that the king believed his side of the story. And this is where we have a problem. Why do we actually need Ratcliffe in this movie? Couldn’t some new guy almost exactly like him take over his role? They do that in other Disney movies, and this guy gives effeminate men a bad name. Also, evil being ugly is so passe. John plummets into the water, and everything thinks he’s dead, because no one ever knew how to swim ever. In any case, we see a decent transition of him laughing in one scene and crying in the next as the scene changes around him. The King says they need to wait for John Rolfe to get back with the chief. If you know where this story is going already, grats. You’re smarter than Disney’s apparent Fanfic-level sequel writing staff.
And again, in the Pocahontas universe, movie titles can only be found in North America, so we get a rhyming scene from the first movie. We see a marching line of native carrying the harvest back, as that jerkass Meeko looks on from above. He and Percy jump down, but before he can be caught by Poc’s girlfriend, she gets a snowball to the head from a laughing Pocahontas, who is living up to her name (it basically means “little brat”) by not actually working like everyone else. The two tumble around in the snow, but this is Disney, so not much comes of it. The basket gets dumped out, thus giving Meeko a tasty snack consisting of, probably, a few individual meals worth of berries. As per the real story, she picks up the compass and we are let in on the fact that the natives have been told of Smith’s death. However, how in the world did they get this information so fast? We see later that it takes several months to travel to England, and yet Rolfe would have been dispatched not long after the English thought Smith was dead. He arrives in Jamestown a few scenes after this, so best bet is that the Jamestown guys just said he was dead to get Poc to leave them alone. Considering the attitude we see from the English later in the movie, this idea could make sense.
Pocahontas wonders off into the woods, griefstricken, to sing a mediocre song. Honestly, if it were in an actual theatrical release, this song would probably be more fondly remembered. It’s not a bad song, and perhaps in another Disney movie, it would have worked well. . Around this point is where the animation just starts to feel really half-assed, with the magical leaves looking so unimpressive it just damages the whole “power of nature” thing from the original movie. The falling snow isn’t bad for the two seconds it is going in the movie.
She buries the compass in the snow in just the right spot to notice a ship coming in. Then again, it seems to fire off its cannon for no good reason, so it’s kinda hard to miss. Here we see super camouflaged natives, and John Rolfe riding a horse off the ship, accompanied by a racist guy with a bag of tasty food. So, of course, the idiotic animals start a chain of stupid events that almost leads to the natives and the settlers blasting each other, until Rolfe steps in and stops the situation. Of course, this happens after Poc throws herself in the middle to stop it first. In any case, they fight because he’s obviously a chauvinist, and he overhears someone mention that Pocahontas would never allow the two groups to come to war. As expected, Rolfe didn’t get Poc’s name earlier, so he is obviously shocked when the girl who told him what for earlier. Of course, Pocahontas is sent to England, with the escort of a gigantic guy who never talks, so I’ll just call him Silent Bob. Also, since Pocahontas never went to England until she was already married and baptized, I’ll refer to her by her christened name, Becky, as it is fun to mess with people’s heads. So, Becky and Silent Bob join Rolfe on the ship, and Rolfe whines about it a bit. If you wonder why I skipped past Grandma Willow, its because she looks pretty terrifying now, really.
On the ship, Percy gets wasted, Meeko gets sick (hooray), and they all get caught by the guy “swabbing the deck,” which he points out many times, in case you didn’t see. Becky is happy to see them, and the captain is a douche about it. Rolfe jumps in, says honor is important to the English, and she starts to actually not hate him anymore. Worth pointing out that anyone who sanctioned privateering can shove any comments about honor up their ass. Then, we have another terrible song, filled with lots of visual variety to distract us from the crappy singing. London Town apparently greets ships and native envoys by singing about how wonderful their daily lives are. Riveting. People seem to be obsessed by the strange girl climbing the tree in what amounts to less clothing than underwear for the time. Oh, and Shakespere is here for some reason, despite having been dead for two months by the time Becky would have arrived historically. Great job with your historical accuracy, but hey, you were pretty close, right?
In any case, Ratcliffe shows up and taunts them that they will never stop his evil plan, maniacal laughter, blah blah. Also, Percy is afraid of Ratcliffe for no good reason. We then go to Rolfe’s house, and meet the completely pointless Mrs. Jenkins. Well, pointless except for the obviously necessary scenes to “civilize” Becky for when she meets the King. Ratcliffe suggests that if Becky isn’t a “savage,” she should be able to fit in with high society. Yeah, bullcrap. The commoners are just as civilized as the rich, even if they are not required to act as such. She pops in on Rolfe while wearing more clothing than she usually wears, and he is embarrassed, though it does technically make sense. Anyway, Mrs. Jenkins trys to get the two together via song for some reason, but whatever, this song is worthless. Really, truly worthless. Also, the animators half-assed her signature necklace. The actual main pendent part of it is actually drawn wrong the whole movie. Anyway, there’s the whole reveal of Becky looking overly “civilized,” and a nice sight gag of Flit as the “drinking bird.”
The group arrives at the ball, Silent Bob steals the coat from the doorman. Pocahontas proceeds to stroke the King’s ego, and the Queen, who will obviously be the most important person in the movie, takes a shine to her. Ratcliffe dances with Becky for a moment and berates her for liking Rolfe, something he SHOULDN’T KNOW because even Becky doesn’t know it yet within the movie. Oh, and a really HORRIBLE song with some jesters. The effects are what I’d expect to be entertaining on a stage in Vegas, in the 1970’s. But, in any case, it ends with some implied bear torture, and Becky gets pissed cause she cares about nature and such. The King is an ass, of course, and because she points out the obvious point from the original movie, and she is taken to the tower to be executed. Yeah, because England was famous for killing heads of state from allied countries. Well, technically an allied country. A cloaked figure goes to John Rolfe and gets his assistance to break out Becky. Yeah, you know exactly who it is. The two Johns work together with the sidekicks to rescue Becky and Silent Bob, and there is some unimpressive action and more bad one-liners from Smith. Also, Silent Bob goes Solid Snake on some dudes in an act that would very likely kill them outright, but hey, it actually did look cool. Becky learns what happened to Smith, she runs off and rediscovers herself, coming across a tree with a vaguely “Grandmother Willow” look to it. The group goes back to the king, Becky tells him everything she needs to, the Queen implores him to listen to her, and the group heads to the dock to stop the ships from leaving. They stop the ship, defeat the villain, and win the day. Then, we have an absolutely ridiculous scene where Becky and Rolfe fail to confess their feelings for each other, despite the sidekick’s efforts. This scene, quite honestly, is pretty painful. There isn’t enough build up over the 70 minutes of this direct to video cash-in to make even the children watching it believe there is actually any real relationship between these characters. It reminds me of the end of Speed, where Keanu and Sandra foreshadow Keanu not being in the sequel by pointing out that “relationships based on intense experiences never work.” And that is really all that Johnny and Becky have, a series of intense events and preperation for said events, with bad songs and pointless crap sprinkled thoughout.
Of course, as per Disney conventions, they end up together and head back to the new world, where history tells us that Becky will fall ill and die soon after they leave. THE END.
This movie is basically the archetype for what Disney sequels would become, unless they were actually just compiled material from a planned series. The main reason people hate these movies isn’t because they are bad (though that often was true), but because they are unnecessary. There is no reason to have these movies. In the originals, often the main character, usually a “princess,” ends up with the man she has spontaneously become attracted to after a few hardships, and they get together and live happily ever after. Of course, the characters are very often better written in the theatrical releases, and the animation and songs are almost always better.
Honestly, I would say just don’t bother with this movie. It really is built in exactly the same flawed manner as the first movie, by taking disparate historical facts and making up everything around them. Pocahontas/Rebecca Rolfe was a fascinating character, and we do have Disney to thank for bringing her story to the public eye, but this sequel just makes me worry that the children of the late 90s believed this crap instead of real history.
And thus, Pocahontas II has been sent down into the inferno to reside in the circle of falsehoods to history. I intend to classify these circles of video hell in the future, but for now, this is enough.