I have never seen a movie which so well represents the process of enemies obtaining a truce, and the process of creating peace from the hard work and sacrifice of a single individual, to the blind prejudice of one side to another, to the begrudging trust between leaders, to the rebellion of minority groups. It treats the Apaches as equal partners in this peace, as it must be for a true representation to be given.
I re-watched Broken Arrow
again today, expecting to brew up some debate or perhaps an apology for not recognizing its greatness the first time around. My reaction was about the same, and now I see why I didn't write about it the first time. It's not a film where I have much to say, certainly no strong points about it. There's nothing said by oldkid or Sandy that I disagree with. The film just didn't impact me. So I respect what it's doing, but because it's only modestly entertaining at best the viewing comes off too much like a school history lesson.
I wonder if this reaction can be blamed on the romance. Meant as the strongest emotional plot and proof of the connection that White Man and Apache are truly the same, Stewart and Debra Paget have no chemistry. He's an instant wet sponge around her and she's never more than a pretty face. There is barely the impact of her crossing against the tribe to be with Stewart. That conflict lasts for about half a scene. Between them, they connect instantly and woo passionately, though they never exhibit a moment of genuine connection.
Their dynamic, and indeed too much of the film, is right out of John Carter (just to name a source that came out before this, instead of saying Avatar and Dances With Wolves.) It's one of Stewart's blandest characters, with little motivation for his actions. He is simply the hopeful symbol of peace. (That being said, I can see why oldkid loved it. He has an affinity for characters who are trying hard to transcend their rough natures and become "the shepherd.") I love a lean film, but perhaps this one could've benefitted from more unease between Stewart and his fellow white men, as well as more unease among the Apache. It all happens too fast. I started to speculate that Cochise was simply tired of the fighting, but it's never discussed. Too many bullet points and not enough discussion.