I have vague memories of watching Pocahontas at the cinemas with my sisters, but beyond Colors of the Wind (which I sang under duress as part of a school choir), nothing stuck particularly in my mind. So I was excited to view this film anew with new eyes as part of The Film Experience's fabulous Hit Me With Your Best Shot series. Unfortunately, I found the film just as unspectacular. I found the film traded in obvious tropes without being particularly entertaining, and none of the characters were very complex or interesting.
The score and cinematography sure was lush and beautiful though. Colors of the Wind remains as wonderful as ever, and there were no shortage of frameable shots. For me though, the best shots are those loaded with extra meaning beyond beauty, imagery within the image, and in this regard there was a clear winner for me:
This is one of the least busy and textured images in the film, but it is also one that captures what the film gets the most right: Pocahontas' determination and will. Her most valuable skill is not her beauty, curiosity or ability to pick up a foreign language in 2 days. Rather, it is her desire to run and forge her own path that powers her. And in this shot, in this moment, she is only running but not merely running - she's becoming a force of nature in her own right, her shadow self as strong and fast as an eagle. Her steely determination to put herself to do what she thinks is right and to stand up for her love is as dangerous and powerful as any of the weapons the men around her wield, and her pacifism leads to peace between the two cultures (as the film leads us to believe). It's the most powerful she's ever been in the film.