Best of the Week: The Magnificent Seven

Of the films that I watched this week, 1960’s classic western, The Magnificent Seven stands out the most. I saw this between viewings of Seven Samurai and 2016’s The Magnificent Seven, but I enjoyed this film more overall; while there are many elements in Seven Samurai that I thought were accomplished more successfully, and the same with this year’s remake, the original western stands out as being the most enjoyable and superior film overall, in my humble opinion. Most of the reasoning behind this final decision is because I simply love how the characters were set up, and especially, how these characters were set up with each other. Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner worked so well together; the brought this almost “good cop, bad cop” flavor to the film as McQueen’s James-Dean-like swagger with the intimidating cowboy that Brynner plays complement each other nicely. Their relationship between the other characters as well as the first scene in which they meet are very entertaining, to say the least.

The story in this film, and the other two as well, is that a small town gets attacked by a more powerful state, and the town has to recruit lone gunman to protect them. The characters heroically fight for this town that they have no reason to fight for, except to stand up for the little guys. The most likely do this because they are drifters, and lost souls who have either retired from the military, or simply have not fit in anywhere else. The way that these characters all work together because of their different personalities makes all of the exposition engaging. When McQueen and Brynner have to go recruit other cowboys to help save the town, we see how they are all different, not just in use of weaponry, but in character and style as well. Even though I couldn’t tell you a single character’s name, I can tell you what they are like by just looking at a still image of the film; even if the writing wasn’t memorable, the casting most certainly was.

The biggest way in which the remake of this film far outshines this one, as well as the original Japanese film, is in the finale. The reason the third act works best in Antoine Fuqua’s film is not only because of the bigger budget, which allows for a much better production value, but also because the remake had a good villain. What this 1960 version lacks is an antagonist worth fighting; the characters are more fighting the notion of an antagonist, than the actual antagonist him/herself. As a remake of Seven Samurai, it seems that the elements remade had only to do with the exposition and relationship between characters, and the finale in which they fight for the town. There didn’t really seem to be any stakes, and the title being “The Magnificent Seven,” I was sure that at least one person would survive, to keep it from being called “The Sacrificial Seven,” or something. The villain that the 2016 version offered casts a shadow upon the first two incarnations of the story, because now they simply look weaker in comparison in that regard. Also, not having a real villain (which I’m used to, being spoiled by films such as Star Wars or The Dark Knight), really made the third act drag- in both of the original two films.

Overall, I’d say that this film, while not being perfect in the end, is a lot of fun to watch because of how the characters get along. Of course, this amusement wears off to reveal a sort of empty third act, but everything that leads up to that moment is sure to entertain. If you’re a fan of Westerns, then this is simply a must-watch, but as a classic film, I think it’s an important one to watch for most other people too. Unless you’re an MTV kid who loves watching 1-second shots between rapid cuts, then I’d say that you should watch this movie, I’ll give it a 7/10, and a green recommendation! Have you seen this film? What did you think? As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!

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