"Comanche Moon" DVD Review
June 20, 2008 by Zach Demeter
Originally airing on CBS over a three day period, Comanche Moon arrived with a solid amount of critical appraise and turned in a decent viewership (which was only bolstered in number, one imagines, because of the writerís strike). Itís no wonder what the show kept a healthy share of its viewers through the three-day airing period. As part of the ďLonesome DoveĒ saga, the over three hour film had such stars as Val Kilmer, Elizabeth Banks, Karl Urban and Steve Zahn who undoubtedly triggered most of the films interest. Despite the names bringing in the viewers, it was the story and quality of the overall piece that entertained viewers and kept them coming back each night.
Although advertised as the ďsequelĒ to the original Lonesome Dove saga, the film actually takes place before the original 80s mini-series. Despite taking nearly twenty years to return to television, the original writer and director return for Comanche Moon, making this production feel right at home with the original production. Revolving around Gus McCrae (Steve Zahn) and Woodrow Call (Karl Urban), who are working as rangers for Inish Scull (Val Kilmer) to hunt down a pair of Comanche outlaws and a Mexican bandit, Comanche Moon focuses on the relationships that McCrae and Call have going on in their lives that we saw in full bloom in the original Lonesome Dove mini-series.
Obviously one of the highlights of this film is not only the acting talent involved but the history that it comes with. I havenít seen the original Lonesome Dove mini-series, but I read enough about it prior to watching Comanche Moon that I can see the positive aspects that this being a prequel could have. While the original saw our two heroes grown up, this prequel shows them still growing as individuals and we can pinpoint specific events in this mini-series that would later influence their actions later in life.
As with most mini-series that air, they can sometimes feel a bit long at times, especially when watched in a row as this DVD presents them. Not to say that each part doesnít have its fair share of action and humor, but watching them individually can really help your overall enjoyment of the feature. Even the most interesting films that run over three hours can feel needlessly long at times, and itís no real surprise that Comanche Moon suffers from the same issues at times.
Surprisingly I found myself forgetting that Comanche Moon was even a made-for-TV movie. The production values for this film were so high that when paired with the widescreen ratio of the film it didnít feel like it was a low-budget production at all (which isnít surprising, considering the budget for this film was quite high for what it was). Despite all of this, the mini-series did have its flaws, with the first two parts of the mini feeling more self contained than the third part, which felt almost superfluous in nature by the time it concluded. To skip ahead seven years into the future for the third part seems an odd choice, as it means we only have an hour to reside in this new timeline, whereas we were in a period of a few months prior.
Obviously as the original was so popular this newest mini-series had a lot to live up to, although having not seen the original I was perfectly satisfied with Zahn and Urbanís performances in roles that were once occupied by Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. Perhaps itís because Iíve grown to like Zahnís work that I appreciated his role that much more. Urban, who I havenít seen too much of, fit the role perfectly well and I honestly donít have any qualms about either. I will say, however, that Kilmer really stole the stole the show with his performance as the quirky Scull. I found myself wanting him to reappear on the screen more than any other, which is really a shame because his role isnít terribly large in the production.
Even for its shortcomings, the mini-series provided plenty for all to enjoy. I wouldnít exactly call it a family affair, however, as some of the scenes in the film took the sexual content to a new high in made-for-TV productions that I hadnít seen before. Usually there isnít quite so muchÖgyrating when it comes to TV films. Not to say I was bothered by it, just surprised by what they were able to get away with.
For those that have viewed the original mini-series, you may find more to argue with than I did in terms of character representations and the overall feeling, but I honestly didnít have any issue with the production aside from the somewhat tumultuous nature of its pacing and how it seemed to entice the viewer in with a high-paced opening that set the bar so high for the rest of the mini-series, that we never quite saw that bar again. Comanche Moon is your typical wild west fare, with good guys versus bad guys with some soap opera drama thrown in for good measure. Itís not a bad effort by any means; it just becomes too dull at times to really warrant a purchase. Rent It (or watch that recording youíve had on your TiVo for two months now).
The Comanche Moon three-part mini-series arrives on DVD from Sony Home Entertainment in a two-disc set. The three parts are spread across the two discs (two on disc one, the final on the second), which allows the film to get the most quality in terms of video and audio. I was quite impressed by the clarity of the image, although in some of the faster paced sequences I noticed some compression that cropped up. There was a bit of grain as well, but it was obviously intentional and isnít any mark against the video quality in the least. The accompanying 5.1 Dolby Surround track is an immersive mix, with plenty of surround usage and clean and clear dialogue throughout.
In terms of presentation, Sony has done a great job with the look of this release. The menus have animated intros, with music over all main and sub menus and theyíre all really pleasant on the eyes and easy to navigate. The first disc contains only the first two parts, so there arenít any extras to poke at there, so weíll move onto disc two where the actual content is at.
First up is a simple Behind the Scenes featurette (7:30) that has cast and crew interviews discussing their time no the set. ďRiding into the Sunset: Cowboy and Riding TrainingĒ (5:47) shows our cast learning how to ride and our final extra is actually the most interesting of the three. ďComanche HeritageĒ (5:47) provides an incredibly brief look at the Comanche tribe and their history. Obviously the politics of the Wild West are still a heated issue even to this day, but the film and this extra take a rather hands-off approach to it all, so as not to offend anyone.
Overall Comanche Moon is a solid mini-series but like the film itself, this DVD doesnít really satisfy the as much as one hoped. A commentary on anyone of the parts would have been nice, considering we donít even scrape twenty minutes on the extras run time. Like the mini-series, this DVD earns a Rental only.
Comanche Moon is now available on DVD.