'Dances with Wolves: 20th Ann. Ext. Cut'
(Kevin Costner, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant, et al / Blu ray+DVD / PG-13 / (1990) 2011 / MGM)
Overview: Kevin Costner stars in and directs this triumphant masterpiece written by Michael Blake, based on his novel. On Blu-ray for the very first time, this breathtaking 20th Anniversary Edition includes an extended cut of the film and all-new exclusive extras. Winner of seven Academy Awards®, including Best Directing and Best Picture, this modern classic tells the story of Lt. Dunbar (Costner), a Civil War hero who befriends a tribe of Sioux Indians while stationed at a desolate outpost on the American frontier.
Blu ray Verdict: 'Dances with Wolves' is beautiful. The detailed conversion on my new Blu player is and was phenomenal. The individual blades of grass stood tall and at moments I felt as if I was right there with Costner as he chased Two-Socks, or crossed the sweeping frontier. Costner's film, if anything, gave a modern technology country a view of a world that nearly feels fictional.
No computers, no cell phones, nothing facing you except nature, and the power of Mother Earth. Costner captures this feeling with perfection. Not only does he have the time to cultivate this sensation, but he uses both audio and visual references to assist with his imagery. There was no doubt in my mind that Costner felt dedicated to this project that his creative eye wasn't at the peak of its existence.
His passion bled through the film, giving us that moment when "Dances with Wolves" transforms from Hollywood project to Costner's dream come true. For that I applaud Costner for following his heart and creating a visual treat that goes beyond your average film.
While Costner's imagery stands powerfully next to any great director's work, it is the overall story that ultimately holds back the rest of the film. Costner is obviously comfortable behind the camera, but it is his work within the film that feels a bit repetitive and cliché. Costner is not Lieutenant Dunbar. While he is the imaginative force behind the story, he cannot seem to tackle the character itself. Costner never quite transforms himself into something we haven't seen.
Perhaps watching it during its release would have been a different story, but in 2008, one watches Costner be Costner only in Native American headwear. The scenes in this film where he first encounters the sounds of the frontier, or later when he finds an unseen love, were utterly dishonest. Costner was Costner; there was no other way to see it. The only parts that glimmered with a possible character were the beginning run through the barrage of open bullets, and the violent reintroduction to the white culture near the end were satisfactory, but for just a few short moments.
Costner needed to tell us more about Dunbar, give us either flashbacks of his life or his reason for making decisions. The voiceover wasn't convincing enough as a conscious to give us true rhyme or reason. Those puppy dog eyes that Costner blasted any chance he had never gave us the torment that obviously dwelled within this man. There was a reason for his possible suicide attempt and escape into the wild. With no mention of family or history, it is difficult to understand Costner's why.
With Costner misleading us through the mapping of this film, it was left up to the other players to demonstrate a goal at the end of this four hour tunnel. This semi-happened with Graham Greene's character and Catherine McCormack's role, two people forced into cliché roles that they have played time and time again. This time they pulled it off well, but I just didn't believe them. Greene plays this character in every film he has ever been in, while McCormack's character was a cross between Helen Keller and Pocahontas.
Not to sound offensive to Native American's, I was happy to see a sympathetic view of them via Costner's eyes, but it felt used. Hardship seemed to be an unknown word to this tribe. Costner was able to walk on in, build relationships, not worry about food rations, and easily jump right into the culture without any worry. There was never a moment where I found myself saying, "Ah, is he going to make it?" - the simplicity of it all seemed faked and merely in place for emotions sake.
Finally, the question of time has to be approached. Did Costner need four hours to tell this story? Alas, no. Using the beautiful landscape he merely bought time, aka filler, to push his simplistic tale from average story to epic. In two hours, Costner could have pushed the emotional button further and really dedicated himself to his character. At pushing 245 minutes, we felt as if we lost the character of Dunbar after the first hour and a half.
With such a broad canvas, not enough was dedicated to the right parts. Costner's relationships with the other characters were pushed so far that a sense of apathy was built. Any cares that we had were brushed away at the two and a half hour mark. [AG] This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Commentary by Kevin Costner and Producer Jim Wilson
Commentary by Director of Photography Dean Semler and Editor Neil Travis
Military Rank and Social Hierarchy Guide
Real History or Movie Make-Believe?
A Day in the Life on the Western Frontier
The Original Making of Dances with Wolves
The Creation of an Epic - A Retrospective Documentary
Original Music Video Featuring Music by John Barry
Poster GalleryDances Photo Montage with Introduction by Ben Glass
Theatrical Trailer and TV spots