Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Magnificent Seven Review

In case you couldn't tell, Hollywood right now is obsessed with remakes. It's gotten to the point where I would consider it unhealthy in that we seem to be remaking anything and everything. I mean, to heck with coming up with original ideas. Let's just redo everything that has been made in the last hundred years and call it good. With The Magnificent Seven, this is the second time in about a month where we've gotten a remake of a remake. The other one was of course, Ben-Hur, which started out as a book, then became a play, then became a short film, then became a silent film, then became the classic that we all know and love. In that case I was never excited for the 2016 remake. It sounded like a horrible idea to begin with and only got worse when I saw the trailer. In case you didn't see my review of that, I was absolutely justified in my worrying as that was an outright piece of trash. The Magnificent Seven on the other hand was a different story. When I first heard about this remake, I was actually excited. Not only did they have a fantastic director and an incredible cast, but western remakes have had a good track record recently with movies such as 3:10 to Yuma and True Grit. Then the trailer was released and holy fire did that look phenomenal. All signs pointed to this being a phenomenal film... or dare I say, a magnificent film? Turns out this movie actually has a ton of flaws, which was disappointing. But overall I still think it's a fun movie worth your time.

If you don't know the story of The Magnificent Seven, you probably actually do without releasing it. As I said, this year's The Magnificent Seven is a remake of a remake. Akira Kurosawa's 1954 masterpiece Seven Samurai is the origin here. The 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven was a western remake of Seven Samurai and it definitely wasn't the last movie to either directly use that movie's premise or take influence from that movie. In Seven Samurai, a village is threatened by a certain villain. In order to protect themselves, the enlist the help of a samurai, who in turn recruits a small army of seven samurai to fight this villain. A group of heroes uniting to fight one common enemy? Can you think of a movie that follows that basic plot? There's about a thousand of them. And I'd be willing to bet that most of them can trace their roots and inspirations back to Seven Samurai. Thus you can claim that Seven Samurai is one of the most influential movies ever made. So yes, that premise is the premise of the 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven and the premise of this current movie. A villain comes and attacks a town. In this iteration, the town turns to Denzel Washington for help. Denzel then recruits people like Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Byung-Hun Lee to help him and this results in an epic showdown of heroes vs. villains.

Perhaps I had my hopes a little too high with this movie, but when it comes to hero team-up movies, I was hoping I would get a movie on par with The Avengers. Or at least in the same ball park. Spend the first half of the movie slowly building up this awesome team of heroes, with each getting their moment to shine and having several small battles along the way as the team learns to grow together before going up against an epic villain with a ton of depth. Instead what I got was closer to Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is a movie that I gave a great initial review to, but didn't quite hold up as the months went on. I will still defend it to those who say it's a bad movie, because that's a little harsh. But Ultron himself is a pathetic villain who is evil just for the sake of being evil with no depth at all. The character growth with our heroes also isn't quite on the same level as The Avengers, so instead of this deep, epic journey and amazing final battle, we have a bit of a brainless popcorn flick that is a lot of fun, but not super memorable. It's actually a really good comparison. The 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven is like The Avengers while the 2016 version of The Magnificent Seven is like Avengers: Age of Ultron. And yes, all four are definitely a part of the Seven Samurai family tree.

Now that I've doused you in comparisons, shall I get into specifics? Yes, just like in Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Avengers, the first half of this movie is devoted to setting up our team. Our big baddie played by Peter Sarsgaard has arrived into this town and terrorized it, burning down their church and shooting several of the people. Why does he decide to do this? I don't know. The movie never really tells us. He's just evil for the sake of being evil. He's not deep and complex like Loki in The Avengers. He's more like Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron, who simply decided that shortly after his creation that he needed to kill the Avengers. Same with Peter Sarsgaard. He arrives at this town and just decides to terrorize it. OK. There's our super cliché western villain. Granted, Saarsgard did a pretty good job at being crazy and evil, when he wasn't overacting (which happens on occasion), but he was a shallow villain. This causes our townsmen to turn to my man Denzel Washington, who single-handedly turns this into an awesome movie. Why does Denzel take on this challenge? That we do learn. But not until like the very end of the movie. I don't want to say it was too little, too late, but it would've been better to get that at the beginning.

Our other members of the magnificent seven? I have to say, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio and Byung-hun Lee were pretty sweet. Zero depth and zero backstory. But they were pretty sweet. Chris Pratt looked like he was having a ton of fun every day on set as his character is also a blast to watch. Although unfortunately I'm not going to praise him too much this time around because it felt like Chris Pratty dressed up as a cowboy having fun instead of a character in a movie. He didn't disappear into his character at all and I didn't see him as an old-west gunslinger. There were two others. I don't remember who they were and what they did. I mean, I can look up their names on IMDb, but I don't remember much of what they did. One of the two was Mexican, meaning we had ourselves a diverse seven. Black guy, Mexican guy, Asian Guy, Native American guy, old guy and a couple of younger white guys. I don't know if that really means anything, but it was just an observation. Overall, outside being cool characters, none of our characters had any depth. And we don't learn too much about any one of them. I get that we don't have the time to give each of our characters an in-depth backstory. But something would've been nice. Thus the stakes were never too high because I never cared too much about any of the characters. Consequently, the hour of setup was surprisingly boring.

Despite all this bad that I am bringing up, there is plenty of good in this movie. If you are a fan of westerns, I do believe that this movie will have a ton of nostalgia for you. If you want to go in and have a fun, nostalgic time with a new western movie, this hits every note that you want it to hit. Our opening scene where Saarsgard comes in and terrorizes the town is super intense. The technical aspects of the movie were spot on. All the sets looked great. The costume design was perfect. The cinematography was beautiful. They did an absolutely phenomenal job of making this look like a western. The score wasn't great, but it was good enough. Once we did get to our action sequences with all the showdowns it was quite the wild ride. Prepare to strap in and have a fun ride. Thus the comparison to Avengers: Age of Ultron continues. Despite a lame villain and not much depth, Age of Ultron was a pretty darn good popcorn flick. Same here. Lame villain and not much depth with our story or characters, but this was a pretty darn good popcorn flick. I was hoping for more than just an entertaining, brainless action movie. But compared to other brainless action movies, this fares pretty well. Not anywhere close to its predecessors, but still a fun time at the movie theaters.

Overall I did have a lot of fun with this movie. It has a good opening scene and a fantastic finale. Denzel Washington proved yet again why he is one of the best actors in the business because he took this role and made this his movie. The rest of the cast was serviceable. Plenty of fun characters, but not enough depth. If you are expecting something on the level of Seven Samurai or the 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven, you're not going to get it. Those two movies had a ton of depth, a lot of emotion, and plenty of charm and charisma with the cast. This movie has no depth, a story that we've seen a thousand, a villain that's bad just for the sake of being bad, and a main cast of characters that we never learn too much about and thus don't care for as much as you would want, but I'm not going to chalk this up into one of the many useless remakes. It's not as close to as bad as this year's Ben-Hur. If you're a fan of westerns, I honestly think you are going to into this movie and have a lot of fun. It does everything that you want a western to do. With how many hero team-up movies that have taken place since Seven Samurai, this is nothing new, but it's a movie where you can turn off your brain, shove popcorn into your face and have a lot of fun. I'm going to give it an 8/10.

No comments:

Post a Comment