In my previous articles, I have mentioned the entertainment industry’s recent trend of rehashing ideas by producing remakes and sequels of older movies. Whether this signifies a lack of originality in Hollywood or a penchant for banking off of people’s nostalgia, what remains clear is that they show no sign of slowing. This past week saw the release of one of the many examples of this phenomenon: The Magnificent Seven. This movie is not just a remake; it is a remake of a remake. Directed by John Sturges, the original 1960 Western film was a reimagining of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Japanese classic, Seven Samurai. The predecessor is lauded as one of the greatest motion pictures of all time for its groundbreaking cinematography and brilliant story. Seeing the success of Seven Samurai, William Roberts, Walter Newman, and Walter Bernstein took it upon themselves to write a version for American audiences. To do so, they changed the story’s setting from the Sengoku period of Japan to the Old West in the United States. While critics at the time of its release were harsh on it, over time, movie buffs regard it as one of the hallmarks of the genre, thanks to its exceptional casting and epic musical score. In fact, Kurosawa told Sturges that he loved the remake of his film. Over fifty-five years later, however, a new version of the story has come out, aiming to recreate the Western movie for the modern audience.
If you ask any film buff, they will tell you that remakes tend to be vastly inferior to their source materials. However, while the 2016 Magnificent Seven has some issues, that doesn’t prevent it from being an enjoyable film. (I should note that I have not seen the 1960 Magnificent Seven, but I am a fan of the original Seven Samurai.) Antoine Fuqua – most known as the director of Training Day – helmed the picture. The cast includes Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Matt Bomer, and Luke Grimes. With names like these, it is unsurprising to see that the acting and visuals in this movie are excellent. Washington plays that serious, no-nonsense lawman Sam Chisolm very effectively. Pratt excels at playing the witty and likable gambler Josh Faraday. Bennett delivers as the vengeance-seeking widow Emma Cullen, as we can see her pain and determination throughout the film. One slight glare on the casting was D’Onofrio’s performance. Personally, when I first heard him speak in the role, I did not like his high-pitched voice (especially given that I most know him for playing Wilson Fisk on Marvel’s Daredevil). However, as the movie went on, I got used to it. Aside from the acting, The Magnificent Seven has plenty of great action. The fight choreography is top-notch, especially any scene involving Byung-hun Lee as the knife specialist Billy Rocks, who utilizes some of the most dazzling moves that I’ve seen in a long while. If you are a fan of Old Western style showdowns – or just fight scenes in general – you will get a kick out of this film.
While there is much to praise about The Magnificent Seven, there are still some issues. For one, there is a plot point surrounding the sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Hawke) not being able to keep his composure during a battle. While this seems like it would be an interesting look into the character’s history, the film doesn’t do much with it, and the problem is resolved seemingly instantaneously. However, the biggest problem with this remake is that it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The story, acting, cinematography and such are all done well, but nothing stands out about it. It is an entertaining movie, but it isn’t very original, which is a good analogy to the current trend of remaking films as a whole. Film executives don’t want to take risks on new IP’s, so they play it safe with tried-and-true ideas with hopes that audiences will want more of the same. With that said, The Magnificent Seven is still a respectable remake that I would recommend any action, Western, or Denzel fan should go and see in the theaters.