Friday, March 11, 2016

817. Dances With Wolves

Dances With Wolves
Directed by Kevin Costner

I feel like this movie had really good intentions, but still ended up being quite racist.  I suppose it is a step in the right direction, given the racism in past Hollywood westerns.  Still, I can't get through this film without cringing.

John Dunbar is wounded in the Civil War, but his bravery in battle allowed the Union army to successfully win the battle.  For his heroism, he is allowed to choose his new post.  He ends up picking Fort Sedgwick, which is a deserted fort on the Western frontier.  He enjoys his solitude, but his tranquillity is interrupted when he encounters the Sioux tribe.  The tribe is initially hostile to Dunbar, but they eventually accept him.  Dunbar bonds with everyone and becomes a better Native American than the actual Native Americans, and saves the tribe!  Hurray for white men!

Okay, I am oversimplifying things a bit.  Parts of this film were really fantastic.  The cinematography is just beautiful.  It reminded me how visually stunning the western genre could be.  Like I said, this is certainly a step in the right direction.  I mean, we actually had Native Americans playing Native Americans!  Other parts of this movie are very frustrating.  Of course Kevin Costner would end up with the only white woman in a hundred miles.  Of course.  The concept of an entire group of people being helpless without one white man is also annoying.  We see the same theme in later films like Avatar or The Last Samurai.

Still, there is no denying that it is a gorgeous movie with some breathtaking moments (any of the scenes with buffalo were incredible).  But it has some major flaws that are hard to overlook.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Two of the buffalo were borrowed from Neil Young, who apparently has buffalo to spare.

A language coach taught the cast how to say their lines in the Lakota language.  To make things easier, the coach did not the "gendered speech" aspect of the language.  Many Lakota people saw the film and thought it was funny that the warriors spoke like women.


  1. I did not like this movie. I am not a big Kevin Costner fan anyway, but I just thought there were too many annoying parts.

  2. I admire the bravery of both of you coming out and being (at various levels) oK to criticize this one.
    I mean, it was supposed to be the great liberal view of native Americans and nasty white man.. and It's all green isn't it?
    MMmmm SWell ..... First of all Amanda hits a good start point with 'It takes the white guy' to solve the problems. (Remember 'Cry Freedom', 'Hurricane' etc etc?)
    Then we think back to the old days when 'Injuns' were all savages, murdering good 'ol white folk for just riding in a stage coach .. .. and how suddenly all (yes, all, I mean, they're sort of all the same aren't they?) Native Americans were peaceful environmentalists who spent all day in meditation with mother earth and founding Greenpeace.
    Look, it was great to see a beautiful looking film with big production values and huge budget say something positive .. but, hey when it came down to it, it was still patronising and I guess sort of racist in it's own way for it's simplicity.

  3. I don't really like Kevin Costner either Diana! I agree Ray it's like Griffith all over again (maybe not on the same scale but is similarly misguided).