I’m happy to have the astute movie insights of Inha Kim, as he gives us his in-depth take on the re-make of The Magnificent Seven. Here’s everything you want to know about the movie.
A Callback to the Good Old Days
The 1960 film The Magnificent Seven is one of the most fondly remembered westerns ever made, with its stylish, fast-paced gun-play, star studded cast, and its old fashioned charm. So naturally the 2016 remake has garnered a considerable amount of hype before its release; A) due to its source material, and B) due to the resurgence of the western genre of recent years. So does this remake live up to the original?
The Cast – The talent and chemistry shared between the cast, especially between Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, are a sight to behold. Denzel confidently plays the leader of the pack Sam Chisolm with charisma, grit, and style, strongly reminiscent of Yul Brynner’s original performance, while Chris Pratt brings his signature humorous charm and his recently discovered “macho” persona to Josh Faraday, or the Steve McQueen archetype character (in case you didn’t realize, this movie doesn’t tell the story of the original characters, but newer characters based on the old ones). His performance fittingly pays homage to the original Steve McQueen role, and dare I say, even outshines it. As a matter of fact, each of the seven gunslingers stand out from each other more so than the original. One problem that most people have with the original film is that the seven gunmen are too similar to one another. They’re six gritty, tough men and one whiny young blood. In the remake, the writer wisely chose to give different roles, personalities, and insecurities to each character, helping to easily distinguish between the seven. The one cast member that doesn’t quite live up to expectations is Peter Sarsgaard as Bartholomew Bogue, the main villain of this film. While he does give a suitably slimy, villainous portrayal, he still stands inferior to the devilishly charming Calvera played by the late Eli Wallach. But don’t be mistaken. His performance may not be as good as Eli’s, but Sarsgaard still manages to dish out some chilling scenes, and the evil nature of his character oozes from his various tics and gestures. All in all, the cast in this movie does a tremendous job in bringing to life this classic tale.
The Shootouts – One of the things that make the original such a classic is the shootout sequences. For a film of its age, they still hold up incredibly well to modern standards. They are fast paced, energetic, exhilarating, and fun. The shootouts in the remake are few and far between. In fact, there are only two main shootouts in the entire 2 hours 13 minutes run time. But when they happen, boy, do they happen. With clever camera work, energetic editing, and spectacular sound design, the new film takes the classic sequences and revamps them for modern tastes. Each shot is brutal, visceral, and powerful. The impact of every bullet is felt through the piercing sounds and rapid camera movement (by that I mean that the camera was following the action, imitating the effect of a bullet. I am not talking about shaky-cam). Mix that with long, tension filled stare downs, the “shoot-from-the-hip-but-somehow-always-hit-the-mark” goofiness, and snippets of the original soundtrack, and you’ve got yourself a sleek, stylish fight scene that also harkens back to the good ol’ days.
The Villagers – The original film did an excellent job at making us sympathize with the villagers. They were simple, hard working people that were bullied and thrown around by a force more powerful than they. So naturally, we the viewers immediately felt sorry for them. This sadly isn’t quite the case in the remake. First impressions go a long way. The first impression I got from the villagers in the remake was chaotic, desperate, and angry. Not quite the kind of adjectives you’d feel sorry for. You could argue that this makes the villagers in the remake more complex characters. But that’s not the case either. The original film also had conflict among the villagers. They argued about whether they should get help or not, there was some hostility towards the seven when they arrived, when they won their first battle they were genuinely happy and excited, and there’s also the three little kids who begin to idolize the seven, and then learn the true meaning of courage. None of these nuances and sensitivities exist in the remake. They mention in passing that the village is really poor, but when you’ve got a saloon, a sheriff’s office, a church, a school, and a “whore house,” it is really difficult to see the poor in your village.
The Pacing – The film also doesn’t flow as well as the original did. The original had a distinct beginning, middle, and end structure. But the remake seems to drag out the first act so long that the first hour is spent in development while the other two acts are crammed into the last half. The first act is primarily spent in introducing the seven gunmen as they are recruited to fight. While the lengthy intro does help develop the seven, it leaves less room for the “training the villagers” sequence, which is equally important, if not more so. However, the film does pick up its pacing in the last act, the big showdown between the seven and the villagers, against Bogue’s army.
The problems I list here probably wouldn’t bother most people, and I would also like to preface it by saying that even with all these problems, the film is still enjoyable. None of what I say should detract from the experience, but I still do feel the need to address them since they are just so annoying to me.
The problems I have aren’t necessarily from the movie, but rather it’s audience. It seems that modern audience members only know how to complain about how everything they see is the same, while b***hing about anything that’s different. Everything has to be done in the safest, inoffensive way, or there will be an uproar. I’ve read the reviews of many critics for this film, and those that disliked the movie all basically said the same thing; “It takes no chances.” Yes. It is true that the film makes very few changes to the original plot. But would the reception be much different if it had? No! People were still complaining about the few differences it did have (some being the same people that hated it for being too safe!). It’s people like this that keeps artists from creating their own unique pieces. Why do the opinions of others matter so much anyway? Just watch the movie and form your own opinion.
This type of attitude people have on movies also hinders artists from including themes to their pieces that could potentially be controversial. During the first act, the film hints at the theme of race relations at the time, when Sam Chisolm, a black character, trots on his horse through a white dominated town. The people of the town start staring in confusion at the sight of a black man on a horse. I thought that the movie would use this opportunity to add racial commentary. But that’s just about where it ends. While I have no real evidence of this, I am fairly certain that this is due to the reception Django Unchained got from its audience a few years prior. Django Unchained chronicles the tale of a black slave who fights his way into becoming a bounty hunter. Director Quentin Tarantino unapologetically portrayed in his film the brutality and cruelty of American slavery. While the film was generally well received, it also spawned a huge controversy due to its violent depiction of such a sensitive subject.
The Magnificent Seven (2016) is a fun, action packed ride that lovingly pays homage to a classic genre. It is by no means superior to the original, or even as good. But the film isn’t trying to be. It is just a popcorn-action flick made for you to just kick back and enjoy. And for that, I’d say it is well worth the price of admission. If I had to give it a numerical value, I’d give it a solid 7/10.