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Dances with Wolves

Blu Ray

  • Score
    from 2 reviewers
    Review Date:
  • Dances with Wolves, a lavished yet contentious winner, earns a praised Blu-ray release with stellar visuals and sound.

    Dances with Wolves Blu-ray Front Cover

    Disc Release Date:

  • Video
  • MGM's Blu-ray of 'Dances with Wolves' impresses with its high-definition clarity, natural textures, and vibrant colors, despite minor compression issues and softness in dark scenes.

  • Audio
  • The 20th Anniversary DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track delivers immersive action and nuanced drama with dynamic sound, capturing every detail from thunderous buffalo stampedes to subtle wilderness ambience.

  • Extra
  • The 'Dances with Wolves' Blu-ray enriches its extensive DVD special features with new additions like trivia modes and a frontier life featurette, alongside insightful commentaries and documentaries, reflecting a deep dive into the film's creation and historical authenticity.

  • Movie
  • Dances with Wolves, a critically acclaimed Americana epic by Kevin Costner, delivers a genuine, sweeping narrative that contrasts with Hollywood's usual, capturing the essence of transformation and cultural understanding, preserved stunningly on Blu-ray.

    Video: 67

    The MGM 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer of "Dances with Wolves" to Blu-ray shines as a significantly impressive upgrade from its DVD counterpart, especially given the challenge of compressing four hours of film onto a 50 GB disc. While mild compression noise alongside natural film grain is noticeable particularly in the darker indoor sequences, it does little to distract from an otherwise beautifully presented high-definition experience. The video reveals an astonishing level of detail that enhances the tactile feel of various textures within the film, from the coarseness of buffalo wool to the rugged facial expressions of the actors. The color palette is warm and stable, displaying a balance of pale sky blues, rich neutrals, and vivid autumnal hues. Despite occasional softening in lower-light scenarios and a slight grayish presentation in black levels that rarely obscure shadow details, the overall contrast maintains its perfection, ensuring the cinematic essence is preserved without the interference of digital noise reduction (DNR) or excessive edge enhancement.

    Kevin Costner's epic narrative benefits enormously from Dean Semler’s cinematography, showcased splendidly in this Blu-ray edition. Daylight scenes are rendered with outstanding clarity, bringing the breathtaking landscapes of South Dakota and Wyoming to vibrant life. While the presence of light noise reduction is discerned, it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the film’s visual splendor. Colors are deeply saturated, with primaries popping with life, although skin tones occasionally lack consistency. The minor inconsistencies in black levels and softening in image resolution attributed to the source's age slightly mute the visual sharpness but do little to diminish the overall high-definition goodness of the presentation. Furthermore, the thoughtful integration of canary-yellow subtitles for Lakota dialogues ensures accessibility for viewers using Constant Image Height projection screens, enhancing the viewing experience by keeping the subtitles within the frame.

    In sum, this Blu-ray rendition of "Dances with Wolves" showcases a commendable effort by MGM to deliver a true-to-source video presentation that respects and highlights the film's cinematic attributes. From its detailed texture portrayal and faithful color representation to its careful handling of film grain and compression, this transfer honors the visual narrative of the epic tale. Despite minor flaws in black levels and occasional softness, the Blu-ray succeeds in offering a visually rewarding experience that complements the storytelling prowess and majestic landscapes central to this western classic.

    Audio: 69

    The MGM 20th Anniversary release of "Dances with Wolves" features a meticulously crafted DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track, delivering an immersive auditory experience that superbly complements the film's visual grandeur. During action-packed sequences such as skirmishes, shootouts, and the thunderous din of buffalo stampedes, this 7.1 mix precisely utilizes its multi-channel design to envelop the viewer. Bullets zipping through the soundscape, horses galloping from one channel to another, and the low-end rumble of buffalo herds moving across the plains exemplify the track’s dynamic range and its ability to harness directional sound with precision, notwithstanding occasional anomalies where the sound's origin in the virtual space might not align perfectly with its visual counterpart.

    In quieter moments, which form the crux of this character-driven epic, the audio track does not lose its finesse but rather shines with detailed ambient sounds. The realistic portrayal of wind rustling through grass, rain showers surrounding the scene, birdsong, and other facets of wildlife acoustics contribute to an engrossing atmosphere that draws viewers closer into the film's emotive landscape. John Barry's iconic score is given the breadth and depth it deserves across this expansive soundstage, ensuring that its orchestral Americana essence enhances every scene without overwhelming the equally important, crystal-clear dialogue and nuanced environmental sounds.

    Furthermore, the audio presentation excels in creating a seamless auditory canvas that complements both the sweeping landscapes of South Dakota and Wyoming and the intimate moments of dialogue and personal discovery. Rifles, pistols, and the natural world resonate with remarkable clarity and depth, from the deep lows to the sharp highs, maintaining a warm and engaging front soundstage. The thoughtful inclusion of subtitles in easily distinguishable colors for English SDH, Spanish, French, and especially for lines spoken in the Sioux language, ensures accessibility while preserving the immersive experience. This release arguably presents "Dances with Wolves" in its best-ever audio quality, a testament to the care invested in revitalizing this cinematic classic for fans and newcomers alike.

    Extra: 59

    The Blu-ray extra presentation of "Dances with Wolves" offers a compelling mix of content that appeals both to those interested in the historical context and filmmaking process. Spanning two discs, the package combines previously available material with exclusive features, like pop-up trivia modes and a detailed featurette on life at the frontier. Noteworthy is the pair of insightful audio commentaries on the first disc, one from Kevin Costner and producer Jim Wilson, and the other by cinematographer Dean Semler and editor Neil Travis, providing both personal and technical perspectives on the creation of this epic film. Disc two enriches the experience with a comprehensive retrospective documentary covering the journey from novel to screen, alongside other special features that delve into specific aspects of production, language, and historical accuracy, making this release a valuable edition for enthusiasts and cinephiles alike.

    Extras included in this disc:

    • Audio Commentaries: Featuring insights from director Kevin Costner, producer Jim Wilson, director of photography Dean Semler, and editor Neil Travis.
    • Military Rank and Social Hierarchy Guide: An interactive guide exploring the film's historical context.
    • Real History or Movie Make-Believe?: A trivia quiz on the film's historical accuracy.
    • A Day in the Life on the Western Frontier: A featurette detailing pioneer life.
    • The Original Making of Dances with Wolves: Behind-the-scenes documentary on film production.
    • The Creation of an Epic - A Retrospective Documentary: An exhaustive look at the film's journey from novel to screen.
    • Original Music Video Featuring Music by John Barry: A montage set to Barry's iconic score.
    • Second Wind: A fast-paced edit showcasing Neil Travis' editorial work.
    • Confederate March and Music: Footage featuring Civil War reenactors.
    • Getting the Point: Behind-the-scenes of a bow and arrow attack scene.
    • Burying the Hatchet: How Hollywood simulates axe attacks.
    • Animatronic Buffalo: Showcasing the use of robotic buffalo in production.
    • TV Spots and Theatrical Trailer: Promotional materials for the film.
    • Poster Gallery: A collection of movie posters.
    • Dances Photo Montage: A compilation of stills with an introduction by Ben Glass.

    Movie: 74

    Kevin Costner's directorial debut, "Dances with Wolves," emerges on Blu-ray as a memorable cinematic journey that marries the epic scale of American Westerns with a personal story of discovery and friendship. This film, despite being over two decades old, still holds a special place in the pantheon of American cinema, distinguished by its thoughtful narrative, compelling characters, and stunning visual storytelling. Much like the untouched plains it celebrates, the movie eschews the typical trappings of its genre, offering instead a nuanced look at the complexities of frontier life. Its careful pacing allows for a deep engagement with the characters' journeys, particularly that of First Lieutenant John J. Dunbar, portrayed with understated grace by Costner. His interactions with the Lakota Sioux tribe and transformation from an isolated army officer into a member of the community form the heart of this sprawling epic.

    The technical brilliance of the film cannot be overstated, with Dean Semler's cinematography capturing the American West's vast beauty in breathtaking detail. This Blu-ray presentation recreates the awe-inspiring visuals and atmospheric sound design with great fidelity, ensuring that viewers can fully appreciate the film's visual grandeur. The inclusion of Lakota dialogue, subtitled in English, adds an authentic touch to the story, immersing the audience more deeply in the world of the Sioux. The performances by Costner, alongside Graham Greene's Kicking Bird and Mary McDonnell's Stands With A Fist, contribute significantly to the film's emotional weight, offering a window into the lives of characters caught between two worlds.

    At its core, "Dances with Wolves" is a reflective piece on identity, belonging, and the loss wrought by colonization. Even as it entertains, it invites viewers to ponder deeper questions about cultural integration and respect for the land and its original inhabitants. The Director's Cut, despite its extended runtime, offers a more expansive view of this journey, providing audiences with a richer, though sometimes slower, experience. As an artifact of American cinema, this Blu-ray release affirms "Dances with Wolves" as an enduring work of art that continues to resonate with audiences through its sincere exploration of friendship, adventure, and the transformative power of empathy.

    Total: 69

    Dances with Wolves," Kevin Costner's sweeping directorial debut, which captures the essence of life on the frontier and the rich tapestry of Native American culture, remains a pivotal piece in American cinema. Despite debates over its accolades at the 1990 Academy Awards, there's no denying the film's impact and its lavish execution, which continues to resonate with audiences. The Blu-ray release by MGM is commendable, offering a high-definition transfer that splendidly showcases Dean Semler's exquisite cinematography. Accompanied by a 7.1 lossless audio track, the experience immerses viewers into the heart of the narrative and the breathtaking landscapes. Although it primarily features extras from previous releases, the addition of new, exclusive material enhances the value of this release, making it a must-have for enthusiasts of the film and genre.

    The package notably lacks the option between theatrical and director's cuts, an inclusion that could have elevated the offering further. Nonetheless, the existing presentation does justice to the cinematic marvel, underscoring the film's grandeur and the meticulous attention to cultural details and storytelling. This Blu-ray edition not only serves as a tribute to Costner's ambitious vision but also as an enduring testament to the film's legacy, ensuring "Dances with Wolves" remains accessible and visually striking for new generations.

    In conclusion, this Blu-ray release of "Dances with Wolves" stands as a definitive edition for collectors and cinephiles alike. It marries the film's historical significance with technological prowess in audiovisual presentation, albeit with room for slight improvement in content variety. Recommended for its technical merits and the sheer scope of its extras, this package enriches one's appreciation for a film that traversed uncharted territories of storytelling and cinematic excellence, maintaining its status as a cherished artifact of American filmmaking.