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Customer Review

235 of 258 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kevin Costner's Best Film to Date, April 17, 2003
This review is from: Dances with Wolves - Extended Cut (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) (DVD)
Kevin Costner directed, produced and starred in the 1990 western epic "Dances with Wolves", which was based upon the novel of the same name by author Michael Blake, who also wrote the film's screenplay. Costner plays U.S. Army Lieutenant John G. Dunbar during and shortly after the U.S. Civil War. Following a victory with Union troops under his command, he requests an assignment to the western frontier and is assigned to an isolated military outpost in the Dakota Territory. John waits patiently for other troops to arrive at the outpost, but they never do. With no means to communicate with his superiors, John bides his time by taking care of the outpost and himself, as well as writing in his journal. A nearby wolf begins to take an interest in John. At first, he tries to chase the wolf away, but eventually, the wolf becomes John's unwitting companion. Later, John realizes that there is a nearby Native American Sioux tribe. Members of the tribe meet John, but since they do not have a common language to speak with one another, they are somewhat suspicious of him. Later, they invite John to visit their encampment where he sees a Caucasian woman (Mary McDonnell) living with them. She remembers a little English is able to talk with him and tells him that her name is Stands With A Fist. Eventually, John learns how to speak Sioux and is adopted by the tribe after he helps them.
Originally released at 183 minutes (three hours), the film may seem long; but the characters, story and cinematography keep most viewers fully engaged. The extended director's version is even longer at 236 minutes (four hours). The primary Sioux characters are Kicking Bird (Graham Greene, whose career in film was boosted greatly by this film), Wind in His Hair (Rodney A. Grant), the elder Ten Bears (Floyd 'Red Crow' Westerman) and Black Shawl (Tantoo Cardinal). The film won seven Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director (Kevin Costner), Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Music, Best Sound and Best Writing--Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Michael Blake). Kevin Costner received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, Graham Greene was nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Mary McDonnell was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
Overall, I rate "Dances with Wolves" with 5 out of 5 stars not only for being a very engaging film, but also for its very positive portrayal of Native American life in the former western frontier. Some people may find the film too long, some may be offended by the negative portrayal of U.S. Army soldiers and some may be offended by the negative portrayal of Pawnee tribespeople. Unfortuneately, none of Costner's works following "Dances with Wolves" have been as good. Films that Costner only starred in such as "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (1991), "A Perfect World" (1993) and "Wyatt Earp" (1994) were entertaining; but films that he both starred in and directed were box office disasters: "Waterworld" (1995) and "The Postman" (1997). Perhaps his next directorial work (that he also stars in) will be better: "Open Range", slated for release in May, 2003.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 7, 2006 2:28:03 AM PST
I had an opportunity to view this extended version on TV tonight. The added minutes were not useless fill-in but helped the viewers understand exactly what occured and why. The original was good but there were points in the film which were not as smoothly layed out as this extended version. The character development in this extended version is important to a much more complete plot to the story. For example, when Dances With Wolves tells the Souix where the buffalo are, they find many buffalo bodies left to rot in the sun by white hunters. The original version does not clearly show what, if anything, the tribe does about this situation. The extended version shows that the tribe finds the white hunters and their wagon and kill them, bringing the bodies back to camp. This helps explain why Costner's character cannot sleep near them that night and how he comes an understanding of the great gulf between them. One other very important scene is when Kicking Bird invites Dances With Wolves to go with him to a far away sacred place. In the beautiful hills, Kicking Bird explains that this is the sacred creation area known by even the Souix enemies. Then they find that white men have moved in and desecrated the area. This section moves the viewer from the vast plains to the hills of South Dakota. And I found this additional material explained the tribes views about their land. I developed a keen empathy for the tribes and saddnes for Dances With Wolves, who is the one person who understands that this is only a beginning of the loss of a way of life for his Sioux friends. The extended version also explored the love story between Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist more fully. We watch how they fall in love, not just make love. There is also a snag in the original ending, where Dances With Wolves is captured by white soldiers. The original eding makes all the soldiers look like idiots and is not the smooth ending I had hoped for, but the extended version completes the story far better. Highly recommend this extended directors version. FIVE STARS Joyce

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 6, 2007 5:07:05 PM PDT
Well said, Joyce. Did you notice the "foreshadowing" of the latter part of the film. At the beginning when Dunbar goes to see Major Fambrow (Maury Chaykin) he asks a young lieutenant where he can find the Major. It's the same guy who is at the fort when he returns for his journal and tell that nutsy Corporal Spivey to stop bashing him.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 23, 2008 9:10:44 PM PST
Chem says:
Thanks for that info...I, myself, felt the original version "makes all the soldiers look like idiots" - in fact this in-your-face PC element was what turned me off to the movie.
One thing: Dances w/ Wolves/Dunbar was not the only one who understood the changes that were coming. Clearly, the Medicine Man sensed or knew it. (I can't remember his name). He had asked Dunbar several times how many whites there were come, and Dunbar finally answered "like the stars" or some such...Interestingly, this seems to have been a common native American misconception, i.e. the numbers of Europeans there were and their impending migration and its causes... A few years after the 1607 JAmestown Va settlement, Pocahontas traveled to England and her tribes holy man (shaman or medicine man) Tomocomo went along. The tribal chief, Powhatan, wanted him to find out how many whites there were. He carried a stick to notch as he counted then, which of course he threw away soon after arriving at London. The naivete was, of course, that the native Americans had absolutely no clue as to the size of the world or its human inhabitants; they had an entirely different mindset.
Ok, enough of that:)...I'll try the extended DVD; thanks again!

Posted on Nov 4, 2009 8:56:10 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 4, 2009 8:58:54 AM PST
Mr Blitzer says:
Sigh. People are so quick to quote an untrue perception. You refer to it as a financial "disaster", but just for the record, "Waterworld" earned $265,000,000 at the box office alone. If you include DVD, television and other sales, and factor in its cost of just under 175,000,000, it comes out to be a very profitable movie by any definition, other than your ignorance. Now, it was critically savaged, and let's face it, there are better movies out there. But to accuse it of not making money, as people do ALL THE TIME, is just stupid.

Posted on Jan 5, 2011 6:22:48 PM PST
A Customer says:
Kevin Costner didn't direct Waterworld, Kevin Reynolds (director of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) did. There is a rumor Reynolds walked off set and Costner had to finish the directing duties, but even if it IS true, the majority of the work was still done by Reynolds.

Posted on Jul 7, 2011 6:16:07 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 10, 2011 1:29:17 PM PDT
Star Bux says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Jul 11, 2011 12:39:26 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 11, 2011 12:42:43 PM PDT
Star Bux says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Aug 18, 2011 11:38:25 AM PDT
AH-1Z says:
One small note: This is not an "extended" version". This is the version closer to Costner's original plan. The studios would not release the version he wanted because they thought audiences wouldn't sit still through a movie this long. No one had any idea of the monster hit it would become. Besides, shorter movie, more times you can show it in a day, and more tickets (and popcorn) you can sell. So, the made him drastically reduce the running time.

In other words, this isn't an "extended" version of the theatrical release, the theatrical release ( which was excellent and shaded the story in a different way) was a "shortened" version of this

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 6, 2011 11:10:54 PM PST
Aaron says:
While I found "Dances with Wolves" to be a captivating and engaging tale, I really felt that "The Last Samurai" was overlook. Both engage similar themes regarding the inherent but deniable evils of "manifest destiny" and the America's natural right (and even duty) to expand. Tom Cruise brilliantly realizes the tragic nature of his character in a setting we (i.e. Americans) are not incredibly familiar with, and certainly not nearly as culturally scarred by [as the Japanese people], therefore it depends far more on Cruise's performance, whereas Dances with Wolves takes a subject matter that is still very real and apparent to us (Americans) and depends on that more heavily for much of the intended effects. Cruise plays a far more tragic hero too given his character flaws. Though the last thing I want to do is minimize the travesty committed by the United States on the native peoples of America (Get Jackson off the $20!), considering the significant effects that the industrialization and westernization had on Japan that are incomprehensible to nearly all save for those who experienced it, I felt that all aspects of The Last Samurai were an incredible engagement into the sublime and an awe-inspiring synthesis of cinema.

Posted on Feb 2, 2013 10:10:03 PM PST
BruceK says:
A very nice review, thank you. I just watched this again for the first time since it came out. It really is a wonderful movie, but I just have a hard time bearing the end. I wonder where this movie and the idea for it came from with Costner, and it is curious how his other movies and starring roles have not been so hot.

I recall many people that I worked with at the time, whites, as am I, commenting about the movie saying that the "Indians" were not such noble savages, along those lines. It seems like the same mental attitude Costner portrays in the movie. Though some liberties were taken with history and story this is a very good movie, I agree 5 out of 5 stars.
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