I remember being a nine year old watching DANCES WITH WOLVES for the first time at the cineplex with my entire family. Walking into the darkened theatre I felt the buzz and excitement all around me and knew that I was about to witness something great, something that would live up to the hype and something that would test my bladder control. The movie was long then, and it is longer now in the 20th Anniversary Edition Blu –ray. With close to four hours of extended footage this epic film once again inspires the feeling of seeing cinema greatness.
In DANCES WITH WOLVES, we follow the life of Lieutenant John Dunbar (Kevin Costner). In his quest to see the frontier before it is gone, he requests to be transferred west. He is then stationed at an isolated military fort where he learns more than just life on the frontier, he finds love and friendship.
Slowly he gains the confidence of a neighboring Sioux tribe and a wolf he names Two Socks. Within the tribe is a widowed white woman, Stands with a Fist, (Mary McDonnell) who starts off as being an interpreter and quickly becomes Dunbar’s love interest.
From being Lieutenant John Dunbar, to Sioux tribe member, Dances with Wolves, Costner’s transformation is awesome. The conflict within the character of Dunbar/Dances with Wolves of being loyal to the military and his new tribe, his new family, is impressively acted. When he leaves his life in the tribe with his wife, the ache of hearing his friend screaming his feelings to him is more than heartbreaking.
The entire cast in this film does a great job. When Stands with a Fist tries to shape the sound of the ‘white man’s words’, her pauses and uncertainty are brilliant. Another standout in this film is Graham Greene, who plays Kicking Bird. His earnest and peaceful nature mixed with the frustration of not being able to communicate with Dunbar, all done perfectly. Having to act while speaking the foreign language of the Lakota tribe (taught to the Sioux actors by actor Doris Leader Charge who played Pretty Shield) was all the more impressive to me. Being able to act/react to hearing words that you are not accustomed to hearing seems like a difficult task, but the entire cast makes it look effortless and easy.
There is a reason this film won best picture in 1991 (among other awards) and why it was listed on the AFI’s Top 100 list (100 Years 100 Movies). It is a film that transports you to that place in time. You feel like you are in 1863 facing the hardships and joys. It is a film where you easily connect with the characters and feel for them.
The beautiful landscapes and cinematography, powerful score and outstanding acting all make this one amazing film. For me, it is like being nine again yet with a better appreciation for the work that went into this film and with the hope that it stands the test of time.
Video: (2.35:1 Widescreen): Beautiful transfer and definitely worth trading in your DVD for.
Audio: (7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio): Clear and crisp, you can hear every gunshot and every drop of rain.
Commentary by Kevin Costner and Producer Jim Wilson (3:53:49): Nine summers after creating DANCES WITH WOLVES, Costner and Wilson sit together and provide commentary for this film. You can still hear the passion and excitement they share for this film and provide a lot of insight on how various scenes were created and developed.
Commentary by Director of Photography Dean Semler and Editor Neil Travis (3:53:49): The duo discusses how various scenes were shot, where cameras were placed and how they captured specific moments of film. They share a lot of technical information for each scene, so if you are interested in that type of information, get your note pad and pen handy!
Military Rank and Social Hierarchy Guide This feature allows you to learn about the roles, the era and events that occurred during the historical period while watching DANCES WITH WOLVES. At points during the film, this guide will appear on screen.
Real History or Movie Make-Believe? This is a game set up like a pop quiz to test your knowledge of 19th Century American Military, the Lakota way of life and the film. At the end of the game you can receive a military rank or be placed in a role in the Lakota society.
A Day In The Life On The Western Frontier (14:18): Michael Blake, writer of DANCES WITH WOLVES and other historians discuss the actual ways of life on the frontier. Finding land, building homes and weaponry and more are reviewed with interesting photos, and clips from the movie.
The Original Making Of Dances With Wolves (20:58): The producers, director and writer chat about the behind the scenes of this epic film. Other actors in this movie are interviewed as well.
The Creation of An Epic – A Retrospective Documentary (1:14:39): Thankfully there is a play all button for this featurette! It includes The Creation of an Epic: Intro, Novel to Screen, Actor Becomes the Director, The Buffalo Hunt, The Look and Sound of Dances, The Art of Composition, The Success of Dances. This featurette goes full circle, giving great detail of the creation of this film to the Academy Awards celebrations. It is very interesting and if you have the time to dedicate to this lengthy inside look I recommend it.
Original Music Video Featuring Music By John Barry (3:52): Music video has shots from the behind the scenes and from the actual movie. The most bizarre music video, giving you a feel of watching something you would create for a school project. The music is from the film but has a bit of a pop beat to it.
Second Wind (5:18): Random clips from the movie (heading out to the frontier and the buffalo hunt to footage of Two Socks, the wolf) with the score in the background.
Confederate March And Music (2:13): If you want o watch men dressed as Confederate soldiers march to the beat of a drum with a shaky video camera then you are in luck! This title is the perfect description.
Getting The Point (3:58): We see Kevin Costner directing Robert Pastorelli getting shot with arrows. Burying the Hatchet (1:12): This is the close of the scene when the soldier gets a hatchet in the chest and how they filmed that scene.
Animatronic Buffalo (2:18): The beasts look lifelike during the buffalo hunt, thanks to animatronics.
Theatrical Trailer, TV Spot: Courage and Passion , TV Spot: Academy Campaign
Dances Photo Montage with Introduction by Ben Glass (9:21): Publicity photographer for DANCES WITH WOLVES shows us his still shots from the making of the movie.