Dances With Wolves has always been a bit of a conundrum for me. The story is simply a beautiful one. The cinematography is often nothing short of breathtaking. What causes my trouble is when we get down to its star. Kevin Costner is horrible in this film. I’m not a Costner hater. Untouchables and JFK are two of his best films, and in each he delivered exactly what was required. I’m beginning to think, however, that the G-Man persona is all he is capable of delivering with any consistency. What exactly is my problem… I’m glad someone asked. Dunbar needs to be a very complex character. We find him at first a very loyal American soldier dedicated to his duty. His transformation under the Indian influence should be a dramatic one and pivotal to the essence of this tale. Costner doesn’t show us this change. The writers do in his words and actions, but Costner hasn’t changed the very soul of his character. Example: In the Godfather Al Pacino plays Michael, who is the son of a crime lord. He despises what his father stands for and has vowed never to be involved. When Michael makes the decision to lash out at his father’s attackers, you can see the change before he speaks a word. Pacino played a different man then. It’s obvious he understood this man was different not because of how he was now behaving, but rather that he had changed somewhere in the core of his being. His voice and speech changed as did even the way he walked across a room. Where is the change Dunbar undergoes inside? It’s simply not there. Costner was also the director, and perhaps there lies the true flaw. Maybe if another perspective had been there to better guide the transformation, we might have been given that dramatic metamorphism so desperately required for this film to work. There’s a reason why given the film’s many Oscar wins one was not for Best Actor.
This Dances With Wolves Academy Award Series disc insults those of you who do admire this film with an incredibly poor pan and scan full frame presentation. The print is scratchy and full of compression artifact. Colors are mediocre at best, and black levels suffer from the grain and compression artifact. There are so many better prints of this film out there that this poor excuse for a transfer is no better than early 90’s television copies.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is fair but not as dynamic as the special edition. Dialogue is clear enough, and at times the score is quite magnificent. Subtle channel uses also provide a relatively average or slightly above presentation.
Just a trailer.
Even if you are very fond of this film, why on Earth would you buy the full frame piece of crap when there are at least 2 better versions available? The extended special edition with its nice features makes a far more definitive edition for fans of this film. There is precious enough little space on my DVD shelves for a gimmicky rehash released in inferior form. And as for the film? If it weren’t for Costner, “I believe I’d be having the time of my life”.
Special Features List