#42 Dances with Wolves

Dances with Wolves (1990)

Dir: Kevin Costner

It’s like Avatar… but on Earth!

By saying that, I don’t mean to do this film a disservice, by far this is superior to ‘Avatar’. When James Cameron released his epic film just a few years ago, it was hailed as ground-breaking, but really it was just the visual spectacle that deserved such plaudits, the storyline was incredibly derivative, and so far ‘Dances with Wolves’ may be the closest comparison I have seen.

Set in the American Civil War, soldier John Dunbar while being incredibly stupid and suicidal accidentally helps lead a victory and is then seen as an incredibly brave hero. Given his choice of appointment, he asks to be sent to the frontier as he wishes to see it before it’s gone, and is sent to an outpost by a deranged major who shoots himself immediately after sending Lt. Dunbar, leaving no record of his assignment. Essentially forgotten, Dunbar makes friends with a Wolf who visits his camp, and then enters peaceful communications with a nearby Sioux camp. Adopted into the tribe, he takes the name Dances with Wolves (due to his furry friend) and falls in love with another white woman who was adopted into the tribe when her parents were killed by a rival tribe. Eventually though the Sioux come up against the white army, and Dunbar / Dances with Wolves has to choose his side.

See what I mean about ‘Avatar’?

One thing I liked about this film especially, was that it took it’s time in places, really setting the scene, especially when he’s alone at the fort and think’s he has been forgotten. However at other times, rather than drawing things out unnecessarily, lengthy things like his relationship with the Sioux, are compressed down to short needed scenes and shots, with a helpful narration of what he’s recording in his journal. It’s the opposite of what Peter Jackson did with ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’.

I also really enjoyed seeing Mary McDonnell as the adopted Sioux woman, she’s a very good actress who is in some of my favourite films, like ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Donnie Darko’. Along with the rest of the cast, which features plenty of actors and actresses of native American descent, they work well to form a picture of this sadly almost completely lost culture.

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