For a classic film lovers perspective, the newest “Magnificent Seven” is about what you would expect it to be – Like drinking a fine wine that has been diluted several times. You get a hint of the original marvelous flavor, but it tastes so watered down that it leaves hardly any impact.
For those unaware, 2016’s “The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of the 1960 “The Magnificent Seven,” which is an Americanization of the Japanese 1954 classic “Seven Samurai.” Granted, “Seven Samurai” has been remade into many other well-known movies, most notably “A Bug’s Life.” Basically any film where a group of rag-tag heroes come together to fight for a bunch of defenseless people against an onslaught from some unrelenting force owes a lot to Akira Kurosawa’s three-hour samurai epic. This new “Magnificent Seven” is just the latest film in that line, but now we’re getting a remake of a remake.
Recently, I wrote a review on the 1960 “The Magnificent Seven,” and I mentioned how the film kept many of the classic scenes of “Seven Samurai,” especially the character building moments for our heroes, while still doing its own thing with the villagers and bandits. The film was both an homage to “Seven Samurai,” while creating its own identity. However, the film did cut out the entire class system of “Seven Samurai,” which helps give the Japanese film its staying power about why the samurai’s would continue to fight for these people who don’t deserve it, and cut out pretty much all the comedy from the original as well. Then again, cutting the runtime in half did mean many aspects would be lost.
Looking back on this though, while “Seven Samurai” is over three and a half hours long, and the 1960 “The Magnificent Seven” is slightly over two hours, I feel like “Seven Samurai” moves far quicker than its American counterpart. Or perhaps “Seven Samurai”‘s time is more rewarding.
But getting back to the newest “The Magnificent Seven,” it often came across like it didn’t know where it was coming from. It clearly knows the story of the original movie, even taking some of the same musical queues from the 1960 film. But now the film is filled to the brim with action movie clichés, characters only trying to out-cool each other, dropping zingers and one-liners, and having little to no character development in favor of more big action sequences.
I found the biggest flaw of “The Magnificent Seven” to be the character traits for every one of the seven, or lack thereof. Big name actors, like Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and a bit of Vincent D’Onofrio, get a bit more time to shine, but everyone else is delegated to their job or their ethnicity. Their race becomes their character. We learn very little about the assassin Billy Rocks or the sharp-shooting Red Harvest, outside of being Asian and Native American. I had even forgotten their names until I looked them up for this review, that’s how little we know about them.
Even Denzel doesn’t get any character development until the last five minutes of the film. He mostly orders others around, telling them what to do and to not run away when everyone in the town needs all the help they can get. Even his opening scene is lackluster – He goes into a bar, asks for information and a drink, shoots up everyone in the room except for Chris Pratt and leaves.
That might seem like a typical Western opening, but compared to the introductions of the other leaders in these films, Kambei in “Seven Samurai,” who honorably discards his samurai attire and look to disguise himself as a monk and save a helpless child from a bandit through peaceful methods, and Chris Adams in “The Magnificent Seven,” who escorts a coffin to its grave to make sure this man gets a proper burial and does it all without having to kill anyone, this is a weak way to introduce the one who will lead a group of warriors who need to outthink their enemies instead of out-fight them.
Instead of a man who has thought of every possible outcome and will always attempt the peaceful solution above all others, we get a guy who will just shoot his way out of everything because he knows he’s immune to bullets – the script told him so.
The newest “The Magnificent Seven” is nothing more than a dumb shoot-em-up western. Its fine in that regard, with plenty of action, explosions and one-liners from Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke. But if you were expecting a deeper story, on par with either the 1960 film or “Seven Samurai,” don’t expect to find it here. You’ll get more character and heart out of “A Bug’s Life” than you will this film.
Final Grade: C-