Winner of seven Academy Awards®, Dances With Wolves is an extraordinary tribute to the great Sioux Indians and the passing of the American frontier into history. Filled with a rare compassion and authenticity regarding the Native American way of life, the film is both epic in scope and intimate in its portrayal of one man's search for his own humanity. Kevin Costner's performance as that man, and his directorial debut, is awesome. Based on the novel by Michael Blake and presented here in an expanded 234-minute edition. (Gary Reber)
Special features on Disc One include commentary by Kevin Costner and Producer Jim Wilson, commentary by Director of Photography Dean Selmer and Editor Neil Travis, an interactive "Military Rank And Social Hierarchy Guide," and the interactive "Real History Or Movie Make Believe." Disc Two extras include the retrospective documentary The Creation Of An Epic (SD 74:39); two featurettes: A Day In The Life On The Frontier (HD 14:18) and the original making-of (SD 20:58); a music video of a pop version of John Barry's Dances With Wolves theme (SD 03:52); five vignettes: Second Wind (SD 05:18), Confederate March And Music (SD 02:15), Getting The Point (SD 03:58), Burning The Hatchet (SD 01:12), and Animatronic Buffalo (SD 02:18); a trailer; TV spots; and poster galleries.
First reviewed as an Orion DVD in Issue 30 in its original 181-minute theatrical version, the picture was superb. Two versions were released, each authored at a different facility. One was DTS®-encoded with, at the time, an almost constant 7 to 7.5 megabits per second (Mbps) bit rate, with occasional spikes upwards of 9.5-10 Mbps, and the other was Dolby® Digital encoded with a 4 to 8 Mbps variance. A DVD Special Edition was reviewed in Issue 74 with a 236-minute length. This new 20th anniversary 1080p AVC Blu-ray Disc™ release extends to the plus 20 Mbps range, for a far superior picture compared to the previous DVDs. Not only is the color palette noticeably more vivid, but the resolution is sharper. The frontier sky appears bluer, fleshtones more sunkissed, and blacks deeper. For example, when the skinned herd of buffalo is discovered, the spilled blood is an even more gruesome shade of red. Shots of the stunned natives who arrive at the scene are crisp and clean, while appearing somewhat hazy on the previous editions. Still, there are segments that exhibit an overall soft character. The source element is quite clean, with little in the way of film grain or artifacts that are distracting, though, the 50 GB disc is crammed with material. Clarity and close-up detail is superb in depictions of weather-beaten facial features, hair, clothing, and object textures. This is one incredible visually stunning experience that is sure to please fans of this American classic. (Gary Reber)
A new remix of the Dolby Digital 5.1-channel soundtrack was featured on the previously reviewed Special Edition DVD release, but no DTS Digital Surround™ version, as was previously issued for the special DTS DVD version. Compared to the Special Edition DVD, the audio sounds even more refined in terms of natural tonality. The DTS-HD Master Audio™ 7.1-channel soundtrack is dramatically more active spatially and has some more to offer in the low end, with more active engagement of the .1 LFE channel. The sound design is wonderful. In large measure, dialogue sounds natural and nicely integrated with the visuals, with a nicely balanced narrative track spoken by Kevin Costner. The Sioux dialogue is always translated in bright yellow lettering inside the picture frame. The surrounds are often directionalized and effective in delineating a holosonic® soundfield. The John Barry orchestral music score is epic in scope and emotionally charged with a rich dynamic presence. Shawn Murphy's beautiful recording is audiophile-quality and spatially enveloping. Surround envelopment is effective and both subtle and aggressive in nature. Bass extension can be deep and quite powerful, yet natural sounding, even during the en masse buffalo stampede over the plains. This is a sound design that nicely integrates the various sound elements, while producing a sonically vivid soundfield presence. The added two channels in the remix are properly positioned to the 90-degree sides of the soundfield, which provides for a much wider front hemisphere soundscape. (Perry Sun/Gary Reber)