Ah, The Last of the Mohicans. The James Fenimore Cooper novel is the very reason why Spark Notes was invented. I think I pretended to read it in high school. Though the 1992 movie, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and directed by Michael Mann, does improve on the book and makes it enjoyable. Plus, Day-Lewis runs around in the woods, kills a lot of people, and has long flowing black hair. What’s not to love?
What you also need to know is that the movie is set in 1757. The British and the French are going at it like rabbits. (This is also known as the French and Indian War for you history buffs.)
Chingachgook (Russell Means), his son Uncas (Eric Schweig), and his adopted white son Hawkeye (Day-Lewis) end up escorting the Munro sisters to join their colonel father at Fort William Henry near Lake George. Magua (Wes Studi), a Huron whose family was killed by Munro’s troops, wants to kill Cora (Madeline Stowe) and Alice (Jodhi May). This causes all sorts of battles, gun fights, and scalpings. There is also a pointless romance and a few lessons along the way.
1. The more clothes you wear, the less evil you are.
There are four groups of men in The Last of the Mohicans. The British, the French, the colonists and the Native Americans. The colonists are awesome because they have integrity and defy the British to defend their homes. (Call it practice.) The British and the French wear colorful jackets but are rather boring. (Usually the men who start wars are.) Of the Native Americans, the Mohicans are good and the Hurons are bad. You can tell this because the Hurons are always wearing little to no clothing. It is a sign that they are not that assimilated to white European culture.
2. I always feel bad for the horses
When horses or any form of livestock are killed in war movies, I get a little misty eyed. In related news, War Horse will probably crush my soul. Maybe this is why I am so cynical about it.
3. Smart women carry guns. Silly women desperately want to see their general fathers no matter what.
The difference between the two sisters is laughable. Alice is frail and can’t handle seeing war. During every battle scene, Cora is cradling Alice and shielding her from the gory fights. Good thing Cora had the foresight to hide a gun in her skirt. All Alice is concerned with is seeing her colonel father, no matter what, even when the fort is clearly under attack. Seriously? I love my dad too but I would have taken one look at the fort and gone in the opposite direction.
4. Evil people can only be referred to in the third person
During one conversation the French general keeps referring to Magua in the third person. At one point, the General says “Magua was successful,” referring to Magua’s deception of the British. As far as praise goes, it’s more than a little derogatory.
5. The French know how to fight a war!
While the British were very concerned about their impending defeat, the French were enjoying a brief choral performance by some children. It was bizarre… and further proof why the French are always great villains.
6. What a convenient time for a romance.
I fast fowarded through some of the love scenes between Hawkeye and Cora. Their sudden relationship makes no sense. Cora is an incredibly righteous woman who asks too many questions. Hawkeye is a man of the wild. Their relationship was forced and they always seemed to have conversations at bizarre times. Like in a cave behind a waterfall while surrounded by a couple of onlookers. Somehow they could manage to hear each other perfectly… despite the waterfall. (Question: Didn’t John Smith and Pochantas rendezvous by a waterfall while discussing the colors of the wind?)
7. I never want to tomahawked and scalped.
It looks like a really painful way to go.
8. Running is slow motion gets you places
During the second the last battle scene, Cora is about to be killed. Logically Hawkeye starts running towards her to protect her. Except he’s running kind of slowly (for dramatic effect), jumping over things that aren’t really there, and killing a few Hurons along the way. The important thing is that he stops her from being killed and they get to have a really dramatic hug… in the middle of a battle. Logically. And no one really notices them running towards some conveniently placed getaway boats. Logically.
9. Wait. This war is all because one guy was seeking revenge on another guy?
And almost everyone dies because of it. Movies simplify everything!
10. All the convenient people always make it to the end
Chingachgook avenges his son’s death and can now call himself the Last of the Mohicans. The lovebirds survive too, which means that Hawkeye can continue to show up and wins wars for the British. And Cora really lucked out. Her father died. Her fiance died. Her sister died. She has no real responsibilities anymore, doesn’t need to return to England, and can hang out with Hawkeye for as long as she wants.
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