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Warner Home Video presents
Wyatt Earp (1994)

"My name is Wyatt Earp! It all ends now!"
- Wyatt Earp (Kevin Costner)

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: May 17, 2004

Stars: Kevin Costner, Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman
Other Stars: Jeff Fahey, Mark Harmon, Michael Madsen, Joanna Going, Catherine O'Hara, Bill Pullman, Isabella Rossellini, Tom Sizemore, JoBeth Williams, Mare Winningham
Director: Lawrence Kasdan

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for strong gunfights, some language and sensuality
Run Time: 03h:10m:38s
Release Date: May 18, 2004
UPC: 085391317722
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+A-A- B

DVD Review

Wyatt Earp is one of those ill-fated films. It had quite a lineup, and grandiose goals: a star-studded cast, coupled with a competent director and a 3-hour-plus runtime, it was shooting for legendary, epic status on par with some of cinema's greatest extravaganzas. Needless to say, it fell short critically. In the usual spirit of the critical domino effect, most columnists quickly followed each other's lead, lambasting the film for its supposedly empty feel, flat characterization, and simply unnecessary detail. Is this critique accurate? Somewhat. Unfair? Most certainly.

We all know the legend. Earp, the mythical lawman, had humble beginnings, not unlike most American heroes. Early in life, he longed to flee from the family farm and join the army to fight in the Civil War. Stopped by his wise, caring father (Gene Hackman), young Wyatt grows up without having to kill another man, hoping to study law with his father and to raise a family in peace. Things fall into place, and the na´ve Earp gets married and soon thereafter, a child is on the way; however, paradise is short lived. When his wife catches typhoid and dies, taking her unborn child with her, Wyatt loses the desire to live. He begins destroying himself, awakening the dark, hardened man that would later enforce the law with such brutal efficiency.

After working thorough various jobs, including buffalo hunting and Faro dealing, Wyatt's bold courage is revealed when he flushes out a drunk gunman in Dodge City in his pajamas. He is immediately appointed as a deputyŚand a legend is born. Throughout his various lawman exploits with his fellow Earp brothers and his "diseased, skinny" friend, Doc Holliday (Dennis Quaid), Wyatt is always searching for an out, looking to other cities of opportunity. Of course, one such destination is Tombstone, Arizona, location of the infamous O.K. Corral. The Earp wives resent Wyatt for his stubborn, cold nature, which deprives them of the stability they so vocally crave; Wyatt's brothers will follow his lead, even to their graves. When this loyalty is made tragically clear, Wyatt embarks on a mission of revenge that will test his humanity and his friendship with the charismatic Holliday.

Like the film, Kevin Costner is an actor that seems to polarize audiences. Some can't stand the guy. I for one think he is a solid actor that slides into these mythical, heroic roles with skill. His Earp begins somewhat over-the-top with na´vetÚ in his younger years. However, his performance should be praised for its range. Through the plot's detailed exploration of Earp's life, we are able to witness and experience his transformation from young innocent to hardened marshal. In the latter portion, Costner's darkness is riveting. Quaid's Holliday is also worth mentioning. The actor lost a stunning amount of weight for the role, perfectly capturing the character's brutality and loyalty, veiled behind a veneer of a polite demeanor. Supporting performances from Bill Pullman, Isabella Rosselini, Tom Sizemore, and the underused Gene Hackman serve to enliven the setting, but do not stand out.

Kasdan's film is as wide in scope as its 2.35:1 frame, which beautifully captures the untouched plains, dusty streets and moody interiors that we characterize with the Old West. This is some of the best cinematography ever seen in a western, rightfully earning an Academy Award nomination. There are problems, though. I admire Kasdan's attempt to illustrate the entire life of Earp, but there is no denying the film's somewhat bloated feel. For me, it feels much shorter than it is, but I did feel it could have afforded a trim; Kasdan just tries to cover too much. Consequently, many characters get lost in the shuffle, and see no clear resolution, especially in the case of Holliday. Still, I find this to be an enjoyable epic that is unfairly panned, but certainly falls short of the superior Tombstone.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Warner's transfer is a gorgeous one. Owen Roizman's cinematography is beautifully rendered with fine color, detail, and solid blacks. Edge enhancement is rare, but some noticeable grain appears here and there. This is an excellent picture, and fans will not be disappointed.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The new Dolby 5.1 remix is superb. The soundfield is wonderfully expansive, and directional effects are more frequent than I expected. Nothing flashy, but tasteful. Thankfully, the mix does not come off as too front heavy. LFE makes itself known in many scenes, and adds depth and power to James Newton Howard's memorable score.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 63 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
11 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: 2 disc slip case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: The film is spread over two discs, with the break coming after Wyatt exclaims the quote featured above. If you're going to have a side break, this is a fine place to do it. Consequently, there wasn't room for much else on Disc 2, so extras are a bit sparse.

First is a supposedly "all-new" featurette, It Happened That Way (14m:03). The piece explores the many characters in the film, featuring interviews with cast members and the director, recorded during the making of the film.

Next is a documentary from 1994 entitled Wyatt Earp: Walk with a Legend (22m:41s), hosted by Tom Skerrit. Produced to promote the film, this piece goes deeper than the usual EPK promo, looking at other epic films and directors, such as the master, David Lean. Later, the production of the film is examined. Clearly, Kasdan was looking to join the ranks of the classic works mentioned. Well, it didn't quite work out.

Finally, we get a collection of 11 "lifted scenes," (18m:17s total), some of which were included in the "director's cut" of the film that debuted on LD and VHS. Scenes include, "On the Wagon Train," "Wyatt Courts Urilla," "The Wedding Reception," "Staking Buffalo Skins," "Dealing with Lawbreakers," "Facing Wyatt Earp," "Kate Is Back," "Josie Leaves Behan," "Wyatt and Doc Are Jailed," "Before the Attack on Morgan," and "Behan's Posse." Each of these scenes are presented in nonanamorphic widescreen and begin with a convenient text screen which sets up the scene. They can be played individually or all at once.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Lawrence Kasdan's ambitious epic is underrated, but not without flaws. Costner and Quaid give memorable performances in a film that manages to paint a comprehensive portrait of the legendary lawman. Warner's two-disc special edition is a fine package, boasting some top shelf a/v quality. Fans shouldn't think twice about rustling this one up.


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