Monday, November 7, 2016 (Issue #2)
by Britta Kallstrom, Arts & Entertainment Editor
. . .
The story of the Seven Samurai has been told again. And not just as another movie, but as another western:
PG-13, 2hr. 12 min. (Action/Adventure)
Metro Goldwyn Mayor, Columbia, and Village Roadshow Pictures Productions have released a remake of the western film The Magnificent Seven (1960).
Directed by John Sturges, the original western tells the story of a Mexican village which recruits a gunman (Yul Brynner) to help fight off a group of bandits and their leader, Calvera (Eli Wallach). But, needing more help, the gunman recruits other sharp-shooters and cowboys to team up with him and save the poor village.
The story for the movie was written by William Robert, but the original film itself was based on the story of Seven Samurai, telling of a farming village during the Warring States era of Japan: In need of protection from bandits who seek to steal their crops by the end of the harvest, the village gathers a group of samurai to combat the bandits and drive them off for good. This famed story was originally created by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Hideo Oguni in 1954.
The latest remake, The Magnificent Seven (2016), portrays a similar story, but is also a very different one. Cold-hearted industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his men torment the people of a peaceful mining town named Rose Creek, driving them to mine their mountains out of gold. Seeking revenge for Bogue killing her husband, and for the other lives he has ruined, Emma Cullen (Hayley Bennett) leaves to find a skilled gunman to help them fight off Bogue.
She finds Sam (Denzel Washington), a ranger and bounty hunter, who is willing to help fight Bogue, because of a longtime grudge against him from his youth. But, knowing he can’t help them alone, Sam recruits old friends, new friends, and even a few men he knows of with bounties on their heads. Sam’s crew includes Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a gambler with a smart mouth who’s fast on the draw; Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Mexican outlaw; Goodnight Robicheaux, also known as Goody Goodnight (Ethan Hawke), a legendary sharpshooter; as well as his friend Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-hun), a knife-throwing assassin; Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a hunting woodsmen and unbelievable tracker; and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a Comanche Indian warrior.
Director Antoine Fuqua, along with screenwriters Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk, portray the story in amazing ways that both follow along the same lines as the original western and give the audience something different to expect, especially if they’ve actually seen the original.
In the 2016 film, Sam, the leader of the seven, holds a long-time grudge against Bouge because of something horrible he did to him and his family when he was a child, and so he is keen to take the job in helping to fight him.
In contrast, the 1960 film’s leader, Chris, had no grudge and didn’t know anything of Calvera beforehand. Sam’s grudge against Bouge imparts a deeper meaning, and provides a moral, for the film: Goody Goodnight said to Sam, the night before the fight, “Make sure you fight the battle in front of you, not behind.” Meaning, of course, that Sam shouldn’t get caught up in revenge when they’re fighting to save and protect the town.
Something the filmmakers didn’t change, however, was a big part of the ending, when four out of the seven are killed during the final battle. Viewers are unsure why the makers did so in the original, and were heartbroken to see it again in the remake.
Because Rose Creek was a mining town, the people and the seven had access to dynamite. This, therefore, gave Fuqua, Pizzolatto, and Wenk the chance to write in plenty of explosions during the big battle scene. The only explosions in the original western were those from their guns.
Even with the different ways the story is portrayed, with different sorts of characters, different action scene techniques, even a somewhat different ending, the biggest common element of both films is the signature line of the villains (Calvera and Bouge): “If God didn’t want them sheered, he would not have made them sheep.” He means that it’s a way of living to take what he wants from people who won’t fight him back. But they did — and a ragtag group of gun-slinging fighters became legends bringing him down. From these two magnificent movies, these seven will stay magnificent for more years to come.