This is my first watch of Wyatt Earp. I’ve owned the dvd for years because I love westerns and never watched it. I know of it’s reputation and I always had to wonder is it that bad?
The answer is no.
Wyatt Earp is well directed by Lawrence Kasdan. Kevin Costner does serviceable work as the legendary lawman, even if he’s outshined by the other performers in the film, particularly Dennis Quaid as Doc Holliday. Wyatt Earp didn’t deserve the reputation it has as a ugly stepchild to Tombstone. It’s just an awful case of timing. Wyatt Earp was released in 1994, a few months after Tombstone in 1993. Tombstone however was such a crowd pleaser of a western after Unforgiven in 1992 took all the prizes as a culmination of the darker and revisionist era of the genre. So when we get to Wyatt Earp, a subject that was covered in a film people really enjoyed, it just seemed repetitive. Especially once you are exposed to Kurt Russell as Earp and Val Kilmer’s award deserving performance as Holliday.
Wyatt Earp structurally feels like it was shaped after How The West Was Won. Only there is one individual that is the focus as opposed to generations of one family. It feels episodic as opposed to a straight narrative. I think it also did a good job as showing the complexity of Earp by showing all the events of his life.
All in all Wyatt Earp is a fine film that works and doesn’t step on any toes. I have no complaints about form or function. It’s biggest sin is just happening to follow a crowd pleaser and an epic deconstruction while the secondary character outshines the lead.
I do like the ending.
“Some people say it didn’t happen that way.”
“Never mind them Wyatt. It happened that way.”
I just love moments in westerns where people struggle with the idea of legend.