Horizon: An American Saga – Let’s Give Kevin Costner a Chance

Kevin Costner is all over social media. Advertising a venture with a coffee company, baring his soul in interview after interview, posing with his attractive family, and promoting Horizon, the long anticipated first chapter of his four-part Western saga. There’s a lot riding on this movie series – Costner reportedly invested 38 million dollars of his own money into the production and marketing. After weeks of hearing that it’s on its way to the big screen, this three-hour movie hit theatres this weekend. 

In fairness, I do like westerns, having grown up watching John Wayne movies, and many of the John Ford-directed ones. Costner’s Open Range (2003) is probably my favorite.  He plays a former gunslinger, looking to put away his killing days, but of course the big bully in town doesn’t let him. The rest of the movie, though a bit formulaic, is a perfect blend of good guy vs. bad guy, with an emotional attachment to the characters. Plus, there’s a lovely romantic relationship simmering with the perfectly cast Annette Bening. Having Robert Duvall as Costner’s sideman was another casting gem.

Horizon is an ambitious story told in four parts, four separate movies. As a fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I was accustomed to a movie series that although the major storyline continued in future films – sometimes a year or two apart – each movie lived on its own. There was plenty of storyline taking place, meaningful action and some resolution at the end making it feel complete. Though the next Hobbit movie wasn’t expected for another year or two, one left the theatre satisfied with that individual movie experience.

Horizon’s, the first installment of a sprawling Western saga, falls a bit flat.  It’s a story of the drive west, to secure parcels of land, and start fresh. The Native Americans aren’t too happy about it and show it by attacking settlements and scalping victims, they menacingly watch from atop high cliffs as wagon trains roll along.  The U.S. Army tries to keep order, but they’re miles from anywhere and any calls for help take a day’s ride to reach them. Nothing we hadn’t seen before. It takes a long time for the story to get momentum, and for Costner to appear as Hayes Ellison, one of many characters introduced in the multiple storylines which proved challenging to keep track of.  

I sat there making one wish after another. For a storyline to capture me, feeling an emotional connection to a character, to be given enough clues of the hero’s ultimate quest, and enough backstory to create sympathy and understanding. Also, I think the viewers – me included — expected more Kevin Costner. If it wasn’t for his other hit Westerns, and success as John Dutton in Yellowstone, the bar wouldn’t be raised so high. It’s probably something of a virtue as well as a curse. In one of the many interviews Costner has given during the Horizon press tour, he has said that he’s been dreaming of this story since the mid-1980’s, even before Dances with Wolves, which he directed and helped finance, and went on to gross over 400 million dollars, taking home seven Oscars. His perseverance, like those pioneering families heading west, is inspiring. 

But I’m not counting out Costner and Horizon yet. I’ll give his next release a chance because first of all, the cinematography of that part of the country is spectacular, and if nothing else, Costner is a likeable and committed actor. When completed, the entire series may run around twelve hours. So, let us not be quick to judge. It took a long time for the West to be won, let’s give Costner the same consideration. 

Photos courtesy of Warner Brothers

About MJ Hanley-Goff (179 Articles)
MJ Hanley-Goff has been contributing to Woman Around Town since its inception in 2009. She began her career at Newsday in the early 90’s and has continued writing professionally for other New York publications like the Times Herald-Record, Orange Magazine, and Hudson Valley magazine. Former editor of Hudson Valley Parent magazine, she also contributed stories to AAA’s Car & Travel, and Tri-County Woman. After completing her novel and a self-help book, she created MJWRITES, INC. to offer writing workshops and book coaching to first time authors, and also college essay writing help to students. MJ has recently made St. Augustine, Florida her home base, and is thrilled and honored to continue to write for WAT and the amazing adventures it offers. Despite the new zip code, MJ will continue to keep a pulse on New York events, but will continue to focus on the creative thinkers, doers, and artists wherever they are.