Review by C.J. Bunce
It’s almost more useful to critique the critics than the new movie The Magnificent Seven, released in theaters this weekend. You’ll find the whole lot so predictable. The Magnificent Seven is a reboot or a remake (call it what you want) and so the best that critics are willing to do is provide the phoned-in, knee-jerk dismissal of it being something less than the original and therefore not worth the time it takes them to write a thoughtful review. Or they will compare it to the best Westerns of all time, and tell you why it falls short. The better reviews will point out that it’s a remake of the 1960 classic Western starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. The smarter ones will remind you that even that version was based on the original Japanese version, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Paycheck earned. Existence justified. But that’s all too easy.
Yes, the original 1960 John Sturges version is both a great Western and quite fun (it’s on my top ten list). The darker original Japanese film is more dramatic, brilliant in its simplicity, and not so much a rousing popcorn movie. Is the 2016 remake among the best Westerns of all time? Maybe not. But is it a good Western? Absolutely. Do we always want to see the best picture nominee when we go to the theater? I don’t. I want to have fun. And The Magnificent Seven is a blast. In fact, critics are looking at it wrong. It’s actually the year’s best superhero movie.
I understand the modern film critic’s dilemma, especially when Hollywood seems to have lost its imagination, churning out remake after remake. It’s the same old song: If you were a fan of–or better yet–love the original, you’re more likely than not to brush off the remake altogether, or at least not give it the attention it deserves. Those who never saw the original or those who can view a remake as its own incarnation–those who can tell themselves their feelings for the remake will not “ruin” their feelings about the original–probably enjoyed the Star Trek reboot from 2009, or Always, or Assault on Precinct 13, or The Flight of the Phoenix, The Fog, The Jackal, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Money Pit, Ocean’s Eleven, RoboCop, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, or Walking Tall. Each of these, viewed on their own merits is a great film. They may even be good remakes. Those who avoid The Magnificent Seven are missing out on a fun outing. And a good remake.
Today’s ensemble movie is mostly found in the superhero genre. Stack up The Magnificent Seven against The Avengers, The Avengers 2, or Captain America: Civil War, or any DC Comics superhero film of the past 20 years, and it leaves them all in its dust in its success in introducing a team, getting them to work together, and MacGyver the situation into some giant climactic battles. Each of the titular seven stars of the movie have their own extraordinary abilities, they just don’t wear capes. It’s an ensemble piece. A superhero team-up. So why don’t we have a casting Oscar? The three casting directors knew what they were doing–they created the teams for Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Sin City, and Star Wars Episode VIII.