'Dark Winds' came out of nowhere this year and transformed into one of the big success stories.
The pilot season was only approved for six episodes yet attracted enough attention to warrant AMC renewing for a second season. 'Dark Winds' is based on a book series by Tony Hillerman as well as a 1991 film, 'The Dark Wind'.
It's got people asking: "How is the 'Dark Winds' movie different from the AMC series?"
The 'Dark Winds' movie ('The Dark Wind') was released in the early-90s and received a poor reception. The film project included Robert Redford who is also an executive producer on the TV series. According to Redford, 'The Dark Wind' was slated to become the first in a series of movies based on the Hillerman novels. However, Redford was displeased with the production, and the director, Errol Morris, did not even finish the project. Consequently, 'The Dark Wind' went straight to video and was never properly distributed.
'The Dark Wind' film stars Fred Ward as Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Lou Diamond Phillips as Jim Chee. If Lou Diamond Phillips looks familiar it's because he also portrayed a Tribal Officer in the hit Netflix series 'Longmire'. Meanwhile, the film also features several characters that have yet to get featured in the AMC series (Jake West, Shirley Topaha, and Agent Johnson). In fact, most of the film is radically different from the TV show.
'The Dark Wind' story mostly revolves around Jim Chee. Officer Chee witnesses vandalism taking place on a windmill. When he goes to put a stop to it, there is a mysterious plane crash nearby. Thus, Officer Chee quickly discovers this is more than a case of vandalism. It also involves murder and drug smuggling. However, Chee quickly becomes the target of the FBI when narcotics from the plane go missing. As the opening credits inform: "The Navajo believe when a man does something evil, it is because of a dark wind."
As a result, 'The Dark Wind' contrasts the TV franchise in several regards. The story and characters are not only different, but the plot mostly revolves around Jim Chee. On the other hand, Joe Leaphorn is more of a secondary character and Bernadette doesn't even make an appearance.
Notwithstanding, there are a few parallels between the film and the AMC series. For starters, both shows are mystery Western dramas that feature a crime the Navajo Tribal Police is attempting to solve. Secondly, the setting is similar with a 1970s backdrop in the American southwest. Furthermore, the film interjects some of the themes and similar issues that the modern Navajo Nation encounters. For example, 'The Dark Wind' – like the TV series – embraces the supernatural and spirituality in relation to Navajo culture.
'The Dark Wind' film was not well received by Robert Redford or audiences. It currently only features a 5.5/10 rating on IMDb.com. Redford, who claimed 'The Dark Wind' was badly "ill-conceived" and miscast, was associated with another 'Dark Winds' production in 2002.
The made-for-TV film is based on the Tony Hillerman novel of the same name. 'Skinwalkers' is one of the more well-known books in the Leaphorn and Chee series because it's the first time Leaphorn and Chee team together to solve a crime. In general, 'Skinwalkers' has been better received than the film 'The Dark Wind'.