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Dances with Wolves (20th Anniversary Extended Cut) Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: A (B?C?)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Discs: 2
  • Studio: MGM
  • Blu-ray Release Date: January 11, 2011
  • List Price: $29.99

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BestBuy.com:
Dances With Wolves - Widescreen Dubbed Subtitle AC3

Purchase Dances with Wolves on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:5/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]


Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film
[Rating:5/5]

Dances with Wolves was the movie 20 years ago and certainly the high water mark of Kevin Costner’s fim career both as an actor and director.  This Blu-Ray reissue is the extended cut version, lasting nearly four hours or 55 minutes longer than the original theatrical release. In actual viewing terms, this longer version of DWW does not play as an overly long film, largely due to its outstanding script and the immense backdrop of the American frontier.

A lone Union Army officer gets posted to a deserted Great Plains army “fort” and encounters a lone wolf is the paradigm of an individual being woven into the larger fabric of conflicting societies: the Sioux Nation who occupied these lands for generations and the relative newcomers, White Americans, who assume the role of unwelcome invaders. Along the way, Costner’s character (John Dunbar) discovers a Sioux tribe, and their adopted White woman (Mary McConnell). He learns their language, adopts their culture, gets a tribal  name (“Dances with Wolves”) and eventually fights alongside their warriors against his own US Army troops.

Sound like a familiar story? Have you seen Avatar? Of course, DWW is a far better film than its successor in every respect. The cast uses real Native Americans who add an essential element of credibility and, much of the dialogue is in native Lakota with subtitles.  I have usually considered Costner to be a charter member of the “living dead” school of acting. However, in this case, his rather stiff style and monotone delivery are not liabilities to the film, and they are effectively offset by the animated and characterful Native American actors.  Kudos go particularly to Graham Greene’s sensitive portrayal of Kicking Bird, one of the tribal elders, who befriends Dunbar and acts as matchmaker for his adopted daughter, Stands with a Fist (McConnell).

Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]

DWW is an epic movie and the camera uses the natural setting of the Great Plains to its advantage. Many of the shots show the vastness of the lands, great seas of grass, and endless ranges of hills and mountains. By contrast, the actors are often seen at some distance, and appear to be small, almost inconsequential and totally engulfed by surrounding landscape.  The cinematic highlight of DWW is the vaunted buffalo hunt which, in its intensity, and constantly shifting focus, gets the viewer right into the heart of the action. I remain amazed at the skill of the riders, Costner included, and by the fact that, during filming, no one died or got seriously injured (not even the buffaloes). As might be expected from a 20-year old master, there is variation in the film’s texture with some graininess particularly noticeable in the night shots.  The recreation of the  Sioux villages and camps, as evidenced by accompanying photos in one of the documentaries, is nigh unto perfect.

Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]

The DTS-HD Master Audio treats John Barry’s throwback romantic score extremely well. The battle sounds as well as the sounds of nature are effectively expressed throughout. This is not a film in which you are dodging arrows or bullets from the surround speakers which was just fine with me. Dialogue was clear and although I don’t speak Lakota, the accents appeared authentic.

Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

There is history lesson and “quiz” on the film’s first BD. A second disc contains cast and director commentaries, three featurettes on the making of the film and notes about life on the frontier in the latter part of the 19th century. All are interesting additions and give further insights into this outstanding glimpse into the disappearing frontier of the Great Plains.

The Definitive Word
Overall:
[Rating:5/5]

Dances with Wolves has achieved status as a classic Western film.  But it is not a Western in the true sense of the term but rather an account about the gradual expropriation of the Great Plains from its original owners, the Native Americans. DWW offers a sympathetic yet balanced view of the Sioux Nation of these times and does not shrink from displaying the sometimes brutal nature of life on the prairie.  The Native American supporting cast is superb and goes against the stereotypical “red man” image popularized by the old-time Western movies. There is nobility in the late John Barry’s score and the cinematography ranges from good to spectacular.  The extra length of this re-release should not deter any one from seeing this film in its entirety as the added scenes enhance rather than distract from this epic tale.  In my opinion, one of Hollywood’s finest moments in a long time.

Additional Screen Captures:

[amazon-product]B004AOECTC[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Dances With Wolves - Widescreen Dubbed Subtitle AC3

Purchase Dances with Wolves on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:5/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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