The version of Terence Malick’s The New World you will be seeing in theaters may not be the one I will be reviewing this week. And it may not be the one that Academy voters base their Oscar decisions on. It seems that Malick is still editing his picture, which will begin an Oscar-eligibility run in New York and LA on Sunday.
This puts me, and other reviewers, in a weird place. Variety is reporting that Malick has already cut as much as 15-20 minutes of the film (in small slices – no major sequences have been edited out). Honestly, 20 to 30 minutes of edits could really change my opinion of the film, which I felt was overlong and lost its way after a strong first act.
New Line executives will be getting a look at Malick’s latest cut this week, and they’ll decide whether to release the longer or shorter version to theaters in January. This isn’t actually a new practice – old school epics like Cleopatra would often run longer in their first major engagements and be cut for their wide release.
Still, if a new cut of the film is released with plenty of fat trimmed, I am going to feel like the nearly three hours I spent in that theater was more wasted than ever.