Wyatt Earp (1994)

(On DVD, May 2017) It’s either a good or a bad thing that I got to see Tombstone a week before Wyatt Earp. A good thing, in that Tombstone suggests a better way to develop the same material as the dour, overlong and self-important Wyatt Earp. Although, to be fair, seeing Kevin Costner at the top of the cast would suggest something as dour, overlong and self-important as nearly all of his other movies. Rather than focusing on a specific slice of time in Earp’s life, this movie chooses a far more inclusive approach, beginning with childhood experiences and going all the way to an Alaskan cruise epilogue. In doing so, it may present a more faceted portrait of the character, but it can’t be bothered to provide excitement or even enough entertainment over the course of a rather long three hours and change. Costner himself is stoic, impassible, heroic without being engaging. (On the other hand, Dennis Quaid is compelling as Doc Holliday) The film plays without being interesting, and even the Tombstone-set segment suffers in comparison to Tombstone’s more dramatic approach. There’s no scenery chomping here, and that’s too bad, because even as Wyatt Earp does touch upon the nature of myth-making late in the film, there’s a sense that it, itself, has not pushed that aspect more. Years later, Tombstone has decisively won the comparison with its near-contemporary: it’s remembered more frequently and fondly. Even if the only thing people remember from Tombstone is Kurt Russell’s over-the-top “Hell is coming with me!”, then that’s one more thing than people will remember from Wyatt Earp.

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