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Okay, I’m thinking of a Disney film released in the 90s that features Native American characters and may be historically liberal with its facts.
The film I’m thinking of is Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale! Released in 1994 and directed by Xavier Koller, this Disney film has since been overshadowed by the following year’s Pocahontas. Coincidentally enough, Pocahontas’ voice actress has a minor role in this film!
Should this film be more remembered? Read on to find out as I review Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
As the film begins, we’re introduced to the young Patuxet tribesman, Squanto, played by Adam Beach. He lives peacefully with his tribe embracing all the traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. He even marries a fellow tribeswoman, Nakooma, played by Irene Bedard.
The two seem to love each other very much, but their time together is cut short when some Englishmen arrive on their shores the following day. These men have come to trade goods with the Patuxet and the Patuxet treat them fairly and peacefully. However the Englishmen show their true colors by kidnapping Squanto and forcing him onto their ship as they sail back to England. The Patuxet tribe is greatly saddened by this, especially Nakooma.
Aboard the ship is another captive, a Nauset tribesman named Epenow, played by Eric Schweig. Squanto and he become friends aboard the ship despite being from different tribes.
When they arrive in England, they come face-to-face with the financier of this expedition, Sir George, played by Michael Gambon. Michael Gambon’s portrayal of Sir George is that lovable over-the-top exaggerated British nobleman character that reminds me so much of a Stephen Fry performance!
Sir George makes it clear to Squanto and Epenow that they are his property now. He puts Squanto against a bear in a public fight, but Squanto manages to escape. Epenow however still remains in Sir George’s grasp.
Squanto escapes on a boat and is soon found unconscious along the shores of a nearby monastery where a group of monks reside. The main monk in charge, Brother Paul, played by Donal Donnelly, doesn’t recognize Squanto as a human being and believes him to be something of the devil that should be taken away from the monastery. But the kind-hearted Brother Daniel, played by Mandy Patinkin, believes Squanto to be a human from the New World who is entitled to being treated kindly and justly like all humans should.
Squanto awakens and is a bit frightened of the monks due to his recent experiences with white people, as well as the language barrier. Brother Daniel opens the gate allowing Squanto to escape if he wants which he does, but he eventually returns due to being weak and seeing that he can trust the monks.
While staying with the monks, Brother Daniel does his best to teach Squanto what he knows about English, books, their religion, etc. Squanto learns to speak English and tells the monks about where he’s come from, his tribe, his way of living, etc.
Meanwhile, Sir George has sent his men to search all over for Squanto and eventually they come upon the monastery. They ransack it while demanding the monks to divulge where Squanto is. Brother Paul, who has finally grown to love and accept Squanto, convinces the men that Squanto isn’t there and they leave, not before destroying everything they could. Squanto is outraged at the harsh treatment that the monks had to endure on his behalf and wants revenge, but the monks teach Squanto the concept of forgiving enemies rather than avenging them.
Epenow has since convinced Sir George that there are heaps of gold mines back where he came from causing Sir George to plan another expedition back to the New World. When news of the expedition reaches the monks, they hurry to get Squanto aboard it where he’s reunited with Epenow.
As they travel, Squanto realizes that he and Epenow have differing viewpoints. Epenow still sees white men as evil first and foremost and deserving of revenge whereas Squanto believes forgiveness leads to peace and revenge leads to more violence and bloodshed. Their differences are showcased when they land back in the New World and Epenow along with his reunited tribe lay fire upon the English ship. Squanto is upset about this, but soon realizes that his own tribe has been decimated due to diseases brought over by the English. Even his beloved Nakooma is no more.
Squanto realizes the rage within him, but also understands the need for forgiveness and peace. This inner struggle comes to an apex when Epenow and his tribe are about to engage in a battle with some recent arrivals to the New World, the Pilgrims. Epenow’s son is shot by one of the pilgrims and Squanto does all he can to convince Epenow not to fight back. Epenow hesitatingly agrees and a doctor from the Pilgrims along with a shaman from Epenow’s tribe do their best to heal Epenow’s son.
Thankfully the son is saved and peace is brought between the tribes and the Pilgrims. Squanto teaches the Pilgrims what he knows about the land and the historical Thanksgiving meal is shared between everyone. The film ends with a shot of Squanto alone looking up at the sky as captions state that the peace treaty made in 1621 between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans lasted for two generations until being broken in 1675 resulting in the tribes being driven away from their homelands.
And that was Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale. The first thing I can say is that I’m not sure how historically accurate the film is. I do feel there’s a lot of Hollywood glamorization and oversimplification of events going on, but I do believe there are some elements of truth in the film.
The film isn’t “bad” per se, but it’s not entirely focused. The film could have been about Squanto alone and his feelings throughout the entire film. The film could have been about Squanto’s experience with the English alone. The film could have been about Squanto’s relationship with Epenow alone. The film could have been about Squanto’s relationship with the Pilgrims alone. The film could have been about forgiveness and peace alone. But all these elements are thrown together in a manner that you sometimes feel you’re watching totally different films at once!
Michael Gambon’s performance is the best by far while Adam Beach does try, but maybe due to inexperience, it’s not the best. Mandy Patinkin is the soft-hearted, soft-spoken guy you expect him to play.
I can’t say that I think this film should be remembered better, but I can say that this film could use a good remake!
So, my final score for this film is 23/35 = 65.71% (D) !
The next review will be posted on August 27, 2019.
2 thoughts on “Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale (1994)”
I’ve seen this film a few times myself, and while I agree, there might be some questions in regards to authenticity, the story of Squanto has, like that of Pocahontas, been embellished upon over the centuries to the point that distinguishing truth from fiction is guaranteed to be quite convoluted; having said this, I don’t think there’s any way to know for the full truth (short of time travel, I mean).
Yeah, I agree. I’m almost certain there was embellishment involved!