The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: MGM - 1990
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 236 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Kevin Costner, Graham Greene, Mary McDonnell, Rodney A. Grant
Directed by: Kevin Costner
Music by: John Barry
Written by: Michael Blake based on his novel of the same name
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: January 11, 2011
"Inside everyone is a frontier waiting to be discovered"
Kevin Costner stars in and directs this triumphant masterpiece written by Michael Blake, based on his novel, and celebrating its 20th anniversary with a breathtaking widescreen version of the film. 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. What follows is a series of unforgettable moments - from Dunbar's tender scenes with Stands With A Fist (Mary McDonnell), to the thrilling, action-packed buffalo hunt. Experience the excitement, emotion and sweeping beauty of this cinematic treasure!
DANCES WITH WOLVES tells the story of Lieutenant John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) who chooses a posting on the American Frontier and is soon accepted into a local Sioux tribe.The tribe names him "Dances with Wolves" and as time passes he falls in love with the beautiful "Stands with a Fist" (played by Mary McDonnell), a white woman adopted by the Sioux when her family was killed. John’s blissful new life is soon disrupted, however, when American soldiers advance on the frontier threatening the Sioux people. John is forced to make a decision that will not only affect him, but also the lives of those he now calls his people.
I first saw this film during its theatrical run twenty years ago have been a fan ever since. Dances with wolves isn’t a perfect film but it’s an enriching one that touches the sprit with its tale of a man who is unwittingly searching for his identity and finds it in the most unlikely of places. I find its multi-faceted narrative to be compelling as it is broken into noticeably distinct parts with sub texts that in and of themselves are nearly satisfying enough to stand on their own. Each builds nicely upon the other and serves to draw us deeper into the film as it speaks of adventure, acceptance, friendship, loss, and love. Of course there is a bit more to it’s meaningful story. The revisionist and historically significant nature of the plot is obvious but it’s the strength of the characters and their endearing relationships that resonates. John Dunbar/Dances with wolves may not be the epitome of the larger than life frontiersman but he has an inner light and strength that draws those around him in. The script takes its time and carefully establishes the characters and relationships that matter most, beginning with John and his horse Cisco, all the way up to the hard fought but rewarding bond with Sioux warrior and resident hard ass Wind in his hair. The depiction of Sioux life within the village as well as the various trials and tribulations both within and outside of the Indian culture is done to excellent effect. We get to see them through John’s eyes but we also get to see and gain some understanding of the world from their perspective. This is an epic style film that provides a revealing glimpse of the unspoiled grandeur of our country alongside the time period that specifically relates to the inevitable subjugation of the native Americans who called it home.
Kevin Costner does a terrific job on both sides of the camera. I don’t find him to be an actor with a lot of range but he consistently portrays characters that play to his strengths and this is one of my favorites. He and Graham Greene (Kicking Bird) had superb chemistry which in my opinion was the predominant relationship in the film. I liked Mary McDonnell (Stands with a fist) just fine but didn’t always find her performance to be convincing. To the contrary Rodney A. Grant, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, and Tantoo Cardinal (Wind in his hair, Chief Ten Bears and Black Shawl) were excellent in support. In reality the entire cast is deserving of praise since as a unit they lent credibility to the film. For me, Dances with wolves is one of those movies that you can’t just watch a little bit of and turn off. Even though I am intimately familiar with the story and characters I can’t help but want to see the story play out to its conclusion. My affection for it is rekindled as I find myself reacting to it much as I did the first time I saw it. I own the 2003 Special Edition DVD release which contains the extended director’s cut the film which adds 55 minutes to the theatrical cut’s runtime. While there are elements contained in the additional footage that better flesh out some aspects of the story, the truth is the theatrical version flows better and is probably more cohesive. I am not certain why Fox chose not to include the theatrical version on this Blu-ray release because at just under four hours Dances with wolves runs too long. I remember the hoopla that followed its Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director for Kevin Costner. Whether you think it is deserving or not there is no denying that Dances with wolves is among the best films of its generation. It is a personal favorite that I am thrilled to finally own in high definition.
The rating is for violence, sensuality and thematic material that would be inappropriate for younger audiences.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Dances with Wolves comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 19 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.5 Mbps.
Having owned Dances with wolves on VHS and twice on DVD I have probably seen it half a dozen times at home. It comes to high definition framed in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and features image quality that is clearly a step above any previous home video release. It offers an appreciable level of refinement and defining resolution that results in a pleasing high definition experience. Close ups generally offer plenty of textural nuance which makes it easy to discern the subtle complexional structure in the faces of the actors as well as visible delineation in the clothing and objects within the frame. The superb cinematography with its beautiful vista views of the open expanses as supported by the natural light of day offer varying levels of delineation and depth that predominantly look great. Clarity and sharpness during low level sequences shot at night or in uneven light can be inconsistent and range from fair to below average. For instance the segment that takes place after the Sioux kill the buffalo poachers and celebrate by dancing around the burning fire. The image takes on a noticeably grainy/noisy quality with diminished sharpness and perceivable resolution. Colors appear natural with a limited range that is primarily consists of earth tones combined with various shades of blue and red that are rendered beautifully in high definition. Flesh tones are warm with supple texture and lifelike quality. Contrast is spot on and consistent throughout the presentation. Black levels are slightly elevated but stable which results in good not great looking scenes that contain mixed light/dark content. The sequences filmed at night don’t offer deep defining blacks or unlimited dimensional perspective however they exhibit ample dynamic range and fair image penetration. Grain is intact and never rises to an objectionable level during scenes containing ample light. I noticed some light background noise and heavier grain during some low level sequences which doesn’t appear to be the result of bit starvation but may be compression related. Regardless of its origins I didn’t find it overtly distracting. There is no question that this high definition presentation offers fans the opportunity to see this wonderful film looking better than ever.
Having seen this movie numerous times on DVD I am familiar with its soundtrack. This isn’t an aggressive surround mix but it gets the little things right which make it all the more engaging. This lossless encoding offers a noticeable improvement in sound quality by opening up the front soundstage, elevating the perception of low level detail and offering broader dynamic range. Dialogue is full bodied, clearly intonated and intelligible through the center channel. John Barry’s music score invigorates the sound field as its smoothly textured brass and authoritative percussion drives the storyline. The score utilizes the entire surround platform via a front oriented perspective that is enhanced by ambient surround activity that encapsulates the listening position and enriches dimension. Some of the effects such as gunfire sound a bit dated but I wouldn’t describe it as sounding unsubstantial. Clarity and fine detail are notable which gives lesser sounds within the mix good audibility and articulated refinement. The additional rear channels provide a bit more envelopment especially during panning sequences. Examples of this can be found in chapter two as John Dunbar stands near a fence as the enemy fires a shot from the distance which whizzes by the listening position and continues through to the rear or later during the buffalo hunt as the sweet spot is engaged by near field sounds that replicate the large beasts passing through the room with the aural position switching along with the camera’s perspective. I would say that this new surround mix definitely improves upon the original and the addition of high resolution lossless sound makes it even better.
- Commentary by Kevin Costner & producer Jim Wilson
- Commentary by director of photography Dean Semler & editor Neil Travis
- Military rank and hierarchy interactive guide feature
- Real history or movie make-believe - interactive quiz
- (HD) A day in the life on the western frontier - 14 minute featurette
- The original making of Dances with wolves featurette - 21 minutes
- The creation of an epic: A retrospective documentary (7 segments) - 74 minutes
- Vignettes: (Totaling 20 minutes)
- Original music video featuring music by John Barry
- Second wind
- Confederate march and music
- Getting the point
- Burying the hatchet
- Animatronic buffalo
- Trailers/TV Spots
Dances with wolves is a viable piece of American film culture that easily withstands the test of time and needs no introduction. It is one of the best films of the last twenty years and is a personal favorite. I am thrilled to report that it comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox/MGM featuring rewarding high definition audio/video quality and a complimentary assortment of bonus supplements that include exclusive content along with many of the original features found on previous home video releases. Dances with wolves is a classic that belongs in the collection of every film enthusiast. If you have never seen it I can’t think of a better introduction than this. Enjoy!
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