James Moore has some feelings on the latest remake of The Magnificent Seven. Strong feelings.
Akira Kurosawa is rolling in his grave at this very moment. This, this, this is the most generic action movie garbage trailer imaginable right down to whatever the hell kind of dubstep wub-wub-Transformers-Michael-Bay-crap that music is. Jesus, you’re already ruining one 60s classic, don’t kill House of the Rising Sun as well. To cleanse your ears, here’s the original theme.
Okay, now your ears are feeling better, let’s talk about what made Seven Samurai, and its Western remake, The Magnificent Seven so good: neither tried to be an action movie. Seven is about the dregs of society resisting oppression. The Samurai and the Gunslingers are not the best of their class, they are the lowest. Why else would they accept to work for peasants who can barely afford to pay them with food? It is fundamental to the premise that the Seven help the peasants because they are just as destitute as the peasants. And this turns that whole concept of the lowest in society rising against expectation into a damn love story. It’s not that I take issue with a female character; far from it, Seven Samurai has its own romance subplot and it works wonderfully. I take issue with overwriting the premise of the movie for a romance subplot, when from Seven Samurai it is already clear you can have that plot without compromising the entire concept. That’s before how blatantly this film isn’t concerned with the philosophy of the original two films.
But then, could you expect more of the director of Olympus has Fallen? The Seven are more skilled at killing than the peasants, but they need the peasants to fight as well. They aren’t better equipped than the bandits, or even much better skilled. They fight with grit and drive, not greed or cruelty. Not all of them survive. It’s a hard fight. But this “teaser”, which is 2 minutes long, already shows how overpowered the Seven will be, making it into another ‘small number vs big number – how unfair for the big number’ cliché and gives them clearly superior equipment.
You did it with Olympus. It wasn’t exactly a ground-breaking classic but it was solid over-the-top action, and there’s nothing wrong with that. And if you’re making an action film, having it be a Western is fine. Don’t expect it to be profitable though, and please don’t pretend you have the sentiment that The Magnificent Seven had.
My grandfather often told my mother a quote from The Magnificent Seven, and she told it to me when I was young. That quote still sticks with me. One of the children of the village says to Charles Bronson, ‘We’re ashamed to live here, our fathers are cowards.’ Bronson turns to him, smacks him, and replies, ‘Don’t you ever say that again about your fathers. They are not cowards. You think I’m brave because I carry a gun? Your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility. For you, your brothers, your sisters and your mothers. This responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally it buries them under the ground. Nobody says they have to do it. They do it because they love you, and they want to. I have never had this kind of courage. Running a farm, working like a mule every day with no guarantee what will become of it; this is bravery. That’s why I never even started anything like that. That’s why I never will.’
Something tells me you aren’t getting anything with that kind of soul out of this.
If you want to make a generic Western in 2016, it will fail. Westerns are dead. If you want to remake Seven Samurai again, put it into another context like The Magnificent Seven did, or Battle Beyond the Stars. I’d would love another space opera version. Go on Disney, make whatever comes after Star Wars: Episode VIII into one, seeing as Lucas put enough Kurosawa into Star Wars anyway.
This, though, is not a remake of The Magnificent Seven, let alone Seven Samurai. Kurosawa didn’t even like the 1960 Seven, and didn’t consider it a true remake. What would he think of this? This is shameless soulless action schlock cashing in on one of the best classic names in film history. All that’s left is to see whether this or that Ben-Hur remake is worse.