As some of you will have gathered, I like going to the cinema. If possible, I’ll go every week, though in my youth I’d go even more regularly than that.
Because my partner and I don’t always share the same tastes in movies (or the same level of satisfaction from sitting for hours in a darkened room), I often go on my own. But just recently there have been a few releases I thought she’d enjoy, so we arranged to go together. As I normally watch whatever I want, I asked her to pick out what she’d like to see and then went sailing (at least she’s not a golf widow).
When I returned I was presented with three options, none of which had seemed likely to me when I’d suggested this. Top of her list was The Magnificent Seven, a film I hadn’t even considered.
If you’ve read more than a few of my posts, you’ll know I’m not averse to some nostalgia. Although the original Magnificent Seven was made before I was born (just), it put in regular appearances on Saturday nights while I was a child, so you might think this was ideal for me.
I’m often curious about remakes of films and TV series from my youth. Star Trek, in both movies and TV spin offs, has largely done well. The film versions of Starsky and Hutch and The Saint completely missed the point and should never have made it past the writer’s bathroom (clearly where the concepts came from). So I have a history of going to find out what they’ve done to either push my nostalgia buttons or make me weep. The weeping, though, was very pronounced when I went to see Guy Ritchie’s attempt to reboot The Man From UNCLE, so I have felt a little jaded recently.
That aside, whilst I don’t mind a Western, the genre isn’t particularly a favourite of mine. There have been several films I’ve fancied watching lately and haven’t had time to see, ranging from Sausage Party to Don’t Breathe, with AbFab, Bad Moms and Pete’s Dragon in between (I like variety…). So it wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to see it, more that better options were available.
Unfortunately, none of the others appealed to my partner and, as I’ve repeatedly told her to go regularly and watch as many as possible to find the real gems, I could hardly argue against it.
And I’m glad I didn’t. It’d be ridiculous to claim this was as good as the original, but it was a worthy effort. It lacks the star-studded cast of the original, but that’s only with the benefit of hindsight. It’s easy to forget that Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn and Charles Bronson were hardly known when the film was released.
When I wrote about The Man From UNCLE, I compared it’s failings to the success of the Mission Impossible reboot. A factor I felt strengthened MI was the introduction of a new hero, Ethan Hunt. So the nostalgic satisfaction came from the mission style rather than the characters and the inevitable comparisons with the original actors. For me, Napoleon Solo would always be Robert Vaughn, just as Chris would always be Yul Brynner.
The first Magnificent Seven was based on the Japanese movie Seven Samurai, so even then the concept was the key thing, not the characters. And in this new version they’ve done the same – kept only the concept. So the conflict is similar, but the characters are different. At no time did I find myself comparing Denzel to Yul.
That said, I did feel some of the characters in the new version lacked the depth of their earlier counterparts. Although Washington’s Chisholm was pretty well drawn, the others felt more like cardboard cut outs, with some not even consistent in their depiction.
And then there’s the “seven”. It’s been a while since I last saw Yul Brynner and the gang, but I seem to recall they were restricted to seven for a reason. In this case, I got the impression they accumulated a team of seven and decided that’d do.
These are minor criticisms. After all, I’m a fan of Bond movies, and they’re so riddled with plot holes it’s wonder they don’t sink. But they’re entertaining, they’re a spectacle and so was this version of The Magnificent Seven.