This version has many positive points indeed. For one the Indians are real Indians. For two the Indian life style is a lot more realistic than in most other versions and what happens in the films is more credible than in most other versions. It is highly probably that the Indians were a lot more hostile than thought as soon as they understood the English were going and planning to stay, and thus Smith had lied to them and promised their departure whereas he knew it was a lie.
The other side is just as realistic. The English die like flies the first year of diseases, cold and hunger, and also because of the Indians but this vision of the English is also realistic in the extreme violence they were confronted to and the extreme violence they submitted the Indians to. The Indians tried to overwhelm them with numbers but the English just burnt the villages and killed everyone, burnt the harvests and the crops forcing the Indians to go away or starve before being exterminated. The film is even clear about the intention of pushing the Indians away from the very start.
But apart from that realistic dimension of the film, the story itself is an embellished love story that has little to do with what probably really happened. Pocahontas was ten when Smith appeared and not a grown young woman. Her religious position and training is not at all explicated and thus the Indian culture is not at all exploited as a highly spiritual culture. It is reduced to some kind of ritualistic, superstitious, extremely "primitive" behavior and relishing paint and other body adornments. All testimonies show clearly that the Indian civilization was a highly advanced one in the field of mental and spiritual empathy with other people and with the other side of reality, the supernatural side that more or less dictates its energetic lead to this world.
But the worst part is the erasing of the real chronology and the role of Argall in the game. The abduction is supposedly coming after the "father" of Pocahontas had banned her from the tribe into exile into another tribe of the Powhatan alliance. That erases the Indian husband Pocahontas had, and her Indian son. That erases the abduction, the killing of her Indian husband and the escape of her Indian son who had been moved to some relatives when the Indians realized Pocahontas was being fooled into abduction. That also more or less makes the abduction easier: she believes she is being saved from exile by her Captain Smith.
The fable of Smith being saved by her is of course central though this is only in the second version of the event that Smith gave in 1624, two years after the bloody upheaval of the Indians, which had an obvious impact on the whole testimony on the colony up to 1622. In his first account of 1608 there is nothing about his life being menaced and it being saved then by Pocahontas. The love affair is of course justified by that salvation.
Then the marriage with John Rolfe is hyper-unrealistic. During her abduction she was raped. She gave birth to her mixed-blood son before being married to John Rolfe and that son, strangely enough is named after the governor of the Colony, Sir Thomas Dale, who had had access to her during her captivity, and even worse, John Rolfe, the secretary of the colony, did not register his "own" son on the books of the colony, showing that either the boy was not his son and he did not care registering him, or that he was considered as a non-entity because he was a mixed-blood, revealing the basic racism of the English towards the Indians and the clear anti-Indian policy of the Church of England. All that is just forgotten in the film.
The final untruth is of course about her death. The film forgets to tell us the captain of the trip to England and back to America was Argall, the captain who abducted her, and the film pretends she knew before going to London that Smith was not dead, and hence had lied to her and to the Powhatan alliance. That makes the death easy and the hypothesis of her being poisoned is nicely evacuated. At the same time what happens to her son is not that clear.
The last element that is absolutely unacceptable is the music that has nothing to do with the historical period and the Indian context of many scenes. No Indian music and in England we have piano music as if the piano already existed in the early 16th century.
So it is interesting to see the film because of its realism but it is highly un-historical if not anti-historical. Could have done better with a little help from simple historical research. Real history is just as entertaining as ideological biased story-telling.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU