Dances With Wolves

Published February 4, 2012 by myliteraryleanings

Review of Dances With Wolves by Michael Blake:

Overview from www.bn.com: In honor of the 20th Anniversary of the Academy Award-Winning film adaptation of the novel, Michael Blake’s historical masterpiece Dances With Wolves is now available in digital form. With a new preface by the author, the e-book edition of Dances With Wolves brings the 1988 classic to a new generation of readers. When Lieutenant Dunbar receives his orders to join the regiment stationed at Fort Sedgewick, he has no idea that the post has been completely abandoned. Left to guard the fort alone, Dunbar finds himself with nothing but the open prairie for company – that is, until a band of Comanche Indians returns to their summer grounds a few miles away. Dunbar is soon faced with a choice between his obedient solitude and the …

My Review:

Years ago, I had read the story of how the screenwriter of this story had tried many times to get a screenplay made and failed. His friend, Kevin Costner, advised him to write his story as a book, first and then sell it as a screenplay. He did that and the book that he wrote later became the screenplay of the movie Dances With Wolves, starring Costner himself.

My first thought, besides thinking how much I had enjoyed the famous movie, was that I wished that I could have read the book to see how it compared to the movie. But the years went by and I forgot all about this, until a few weeks ago. I decided to check out the book from a local library and finally find out for myself what it was like and how it had been changed when made into a movie.

I discovered that not a lot had been changed. Perhaps it was due to Costner’s involvement in the project or the general respect that those in charge had for the work but I don’t think that is the only reason. This book, plain and simple, told a great story. Therefore, only a small amount of the material needed to be changed.

The most important thing that was changed was the tribe. They became the Sioux instead of Comanches. According to what I read online, this was due to the fact that it was harder to find speakers of the Comanche language to teach the cast.

The other was a deletion. A scene that was filmed never made it into the movie. This scene was quiet powerful. However, I can see why the director choose not include it in the film. It could have seemed redundant to audiences when an earlier scene with the buffalo make the same point. In the book, it is great. It flows. But in the movie, it could have been too much. The movie that did get filmed was already long by cinematic standards. I found the deleted scene on www.youtube.com however, and have pasted it at the bottom of this review. It is shot exactly as described in the book.

Most people know the story already. The book is virtually the same. All the same characters are there.  Costner and his female co-star who played Stands With A Fist seemed a bit old for the parts they were playing but they did a good job.

The book didn’t paint as much of sympathetic portrait of the Comanches as the movie did of the Sioux. Still, the author wrote as accurately as possible from what I can tell. Someone I know taught me many things about the history of the Native Americans in this country and in most cases to say that they were treated unfairly by the U.S. government is putting it mildly.

The best part of the book is the ending I think. Compared with the movie, it was more positive. I felt better walking away from it than I did the movie. But maybe that’s not a good thing.

However, I would definitely recommend this book. Its style took a little getting used to. The chapters are divided into small parts that were reminiscent of scenes in a screenplay. I guess that is to be expected but it was a little hard to get used to. Once I did though, I enjoyed the story.

Contains: war violence, hunting violence, some language, some sexual content, and gross humor.

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