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20th Century Fox presents
"After 7 years indentured service in Virginia, they headed out here 'cause the frontier's the only land available to poor people. Out here they're beholden to none, not livin' by another's leave."
DVD ReviewMichael Mann's interpretation of the James Fenimore Cooper classic, is an epic retelling replete with a strong cast and realistically recreated battle and hand-to-hand combat scenes. The story places the viewer in the battle between the French and the English to colonize the last frontier of the New World, during the time known as the French and Indian War.
The lines of battle here are not easily drawn. The colonists, friends to the remaining Mohicans, prefer not to fight, but join the British because the French will lay claim to their land if the British should lose. Since most of the colonists are simple, poor trappers, their allegiance had been bought by the British in exchange for plots of land on the frontier. The roving Huron war party, led by the rogue Magua, hate the settlers, the other tribes, and the particularly the British who they have battled in the past. In between are the Mohawks who are only trying to survive and to perhaps carry on to another generation. Entangled in this strange world of politics and gentleman's culture, are the warring Indian tribes caught between betrayal and extinction. In between all of this comes Cora, the daughter of British Colonel Munro, whose beauty tames the Mohawk Indian-raised Hawkeye Poe, after he saves her from death at the hand of the revengeful Huron Indian, Magua, whose heart burns for the annihilation of the Munro family.
Mann captures the essence of the heart pounding adventure of the Mohican way of life, the Barbarism of hatred, as seen through Magua, as well as the self important hubris displayed by both the French and the British in their endeavors to "tame" the savages and steal their land.
It is actually my belief that this Cooper's intent was to plea for a coming together in the face of cultural and religious differences, in a reconciliation of understanding and mutual respect. Is the Indian portrayed as the savage, or is it the French and English driven to insanity by territorial greediness to kill not only each other, but entire tribes of Native Americans? Which is the true savage? Which is the true civilization? Who is to say which is the better or purer way of life? I know on which side Thoreau would stand. Hawkeye Poe is the thin line between these two worlds; the conscience . It is he who holds both sides inside him, not as warring factions, but as a yin-yang of the necessities of complete human existence. It is he who can not only hunt and fight and live off the land, but he too that possesses an understanding of the white man's culture having been schooled by the British. It is not despite their differences that he and Cora fall in love, but because of them. Viva la difference!
"The whole world's on fire, isn't it?" -Cora Munro
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Fox presents this much beloved film as a non-anamorphic 2.35:1 in its original widescreen theatrical aspect ratio. It was reported at the DVDFile that Michael Mann had complete control not only over the new integrated cut of the film, but also the transfer—and it was his desire, not Fox's, not to furnish any extra features on this DVD.
The colors are generally very well saturated and bright, with accurate flesh tones throughout. This is not the most pristine of prints however, containing occasional dirt and grain, and several moments in which the print is unfocused (i.e., ch4, 8m:25s; ch24, 125m). Other than these source issues, there is also some edge enhancement (haloing) that can be detected by looking at the trees in the forest scenes.
This transfer suffers due to the loss of resolution, but I have to admit that this being one of my favorite films, I'm far happier to have this on DVD than I should be considering the unfortunate lack of care. Fox is starting to get DVD, and I am led to believe that Mr. Mann is more responsible than they, but did you notice that Warner didn't let him get away with any of this non-anamorphic, no features crap with it's release of Heat?
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: I briefly tested out the Dolby Surround 2.0 track, which was sufficient, but typically short of the excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 track also included. Trevor Jones' moving and memorable musical score fills the room with full surround sound, while arrows whiz by in sweeping effects. The battle and fighting sequences are loud and include excellent .1 LFE bass, shaking the room several times with cannon fire. This is a very good mix, and will at times become so immersive that one considers forgiving the visual flaws.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsWhile this is a non-anamorphic, extra feature bare disc, I reiterate my selfishness: it's still very cool to have this flick in my collection. Had I been purchasing this disc however, I would have had a difficult decision on my hands. I do hope that Mr. Mann will come around in the near future (not likely according to Peter Bracke) and give his epic drama not only an anamorphic transfer, but a feature-length commentary he is generally opposed to as well. At least then he could explain the cuts he's made for this release. Although Mr. Mann prefers this version of the movie, I think Fox should have included both versions on the disc for the originalists. Perhaps the next time the Chicago native comes home I'll have a chance to meet Mikey and set him straight.
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