Let me say right off the bat I haven’t read the novel this movie was based on. I don’t know how true it is to its source material. I don’t know if the problems this movie has are owed to Cooper’s novel, or if they are the result of Hollywood meddling. I’m guessing the latter, but I’ll get more into that later. All I know is that for a movie called the Last of the Mohicans, it’s very focused on white people.
First let me enumerate this movie’s strengths, of which there are many. The plot is good. The music is awesome, especially the theme that plays during the climactic chase scene. The battles are well done and exciting. Daniel-Day-Lewis is a good actor, and is character, Hawkeye, is a likable protagonist. Some of the characters are well-developed and engaging.
But only the white ones.
The movie centers around the efforts of three rugged frontiersmen to save a pair of white girls from an embittered Native American chief bent on revenge during the SEven Years’ War (also known as the French and Indian War). One of these frontiersmen, Hawkeye, is white. The other two are Native American, a father and son. They have about five lines apiece, and about a third of the screen-time Hawkeye and the white women enjoy. In order to explain why this is such a problem, I’m going to have to spoil the end of the movie. Sorry, folks.
This becomes really problematic towards the end. The thing is, we’re supposed to care about these two flat, un-developed Native American characters. I thought they wre just there to help Hawkeye in the action scenes, and then, out of nowhere, the son dies, and the father suddenly and abruptly takes center stage. It is he, not Hawkeye, who takes on the villain in single combat, and it is he who makes the dramatic speech at the end of the movie. Also, as it turns out, he is the titular “Last of the Mohicans.” Take a look:
Which makes me wonder why, if he was going to be so damn important to the end of the film, he sat around and did nothing during the preceding hour and a half. Why did the movie spend so much time on Daniel Day-Lewis’ character, when, in truth, he actually wasn’t all that important to the resolution of the story? He honestly did no more than his companions to decide how the movie turned out, and yet his romance with one of the white girls took up about 20 minutes of screen time, while the romance between his Native American comrade and the second white girl was breezed over in a 30-second long scene showing them cuddling together. Why? I’ll never know the answer for sure, but I have a couple of guesses.
1. Daniel Day-Lewis is a big star, and 2. he is white.
The ending might have worked if they’d built up the two Native American heroes, but these characters were so marginalized that I’ve forgotten their names and what they looked like. Since the climax focuses on two non-characters, it loses much of its potency and feels awkward, crudely tacked-on and out-of-place.
So. A rousing adventure tale, and a nice war movie, but it could have been something so much more if only it had been willing to be brave and focus more on the Mohicans and less on the whites.