Meh: The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven: the movie you kinda sorta knew was coming out, but really only went when you saw it had your favorite actors in it. In honor of its name, here are the seven things you need to know about this newest Western.

the-magnificent-seven-2016
(l to r) Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio and Martin Sensmeier in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Columbia Pictures’ THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.
  1. Story

This is a remake of the 1960 The Magnificent Seven, which in turn is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s epic The Seven Samurai. I have not seen the original Magnificent Seven (I know, I know, sorry). However, the movie doesn’t stray far from that story.

The film starts with Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), a baddy capitalist who burns down a church and kills a handful of men in the opening scene. Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), the wife of a man who is killed, enlists Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUVqTzvyudQ) and Josh Faraway (Chris Pratt) to gather a team of heroes who can stop Bogue.

  1. Talent

Denzel Washington can do no wrong. The trailer for the upcoming film Fences (based on the play of the same title that Washington will be directing and starring in) played before this film, and reminded me of that fact. His Sam Chisolm is not necessarily a new type of hero, but is still a stoic one we can appreciate.

Chris Pratt plays Chris Pratt. I was hoping when he became a superstar, he would reveal a talent for playing interesting characters. Instead, he revealed that he has more abs than he does diverse roles. He still has time to show his acting chops, but right now he seems more than content to keep his blockbuster leading man image. If only that leading man was a little more interesting.

Ethan Hawke rivals Denzel Washington on the likeability factor here. He plays Goodnight Robicheaux (how can you lose with a name like that?) with finesse and passion. He makes the PTSD and guilt Goodnight feels real and adds some interest to an overdone story.

I wish I could say much about the rest of the cast. Haley Bennett does her best, but her job is mostly to be the 7th member of the party stand-in until the boys can all get there. Her role is similar to Hailee Steinfeld’s from 2010’s True Grit, and it isn’t near as interesting. And the other guys? Well, try to remember their names after you’ve left the theater.

  1. Diversity

This film caught a lot of people’s eye by showing off its diversity. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), starring Denzel Washington, with three other men of color in the leading roles. And I applaud that diversity. That said, the film tries to have its cake and eat it, too. It could be said that the story takes place in an alternative universe where all these types of men could get along in the Wild West (which, historically, they were all definitely present in). But then it doesn’t make sense when characters say racist things to each other. But if it had taken place in the real Wild West, these men almost definitely wouldn’t have gotten along so easily.

As for the characters themselves, it’s cool that the lesser-known actors of color get a time to shine in complex, original roles. As long as you forget about the stereotypes, like the Indian who eats the raw hearts of animals, or the Asian guy who is basically a quiet but deadly ninja, or the Mexican who… Well, he doesn’t really do anything. Or the fact that the confederate soldier and the black man get along just dandy.  Or that the only woman is practically prostituted by the men around her and her role is nudged out of the film quickly to make way for the heroes. But yeah progress! Now earn that title, movie.

  1. Style

A big part of Westerns is the distinct style. You need a bar scene, a horse scene, a sitting around the campfire scene. All of these elements are here. If those scenes are your jam, especially when they are stripped of soul and heart, then you’ll be happy.

The whole film is obsessed with style. I didn’t keep count, but I feel like fifty would be a modest number for the number of times the camera panned from Denzel Washington’s hand to gun to face to a slow motion walk. The violence might be gory, but these men are still stars, dang it! They’re the western Avengers, and everyone knows you can’t fight outlaws without looking hot.

But with the over-stylization comes some positives.  The score and cinematography are gorgeous. The soundtrack livens up formulaic scenes and adds intensity to scenes where you wouldn’t otherwise feel the emotion. The cinematography has the same effect.

  1. Making a Western

It’s difficult to change the Western formula, save for location change (Star Wars is an example- a Western in space). It is admittedly not one of my favorite genres for this reason. The Magnificent Seven doesn’t do a whole lot for changing the modern Western, save for its casting. However, there is no shame in making a solid genre film. The thing that struck me throughout the movie was the lack of a message. There is some religious talk. People muse over revenge and righteousness. But in the end, if the villain is just a mean capitalist (because heaven forbid we have villains that aren’t aliens, nazis, or rich people) and the only way to get rid of him is to brutally murder his army of men and destroy a town, so what? The movie doesn’t have much of a message. That’s the biggest crime of them all.

  1.  Locations

While the town the film is set in is your generic Western town, the fact that the film was shot on location makes a big difference. The setting feels real and lived in. The gorgeous natural beauty of New Mexico, Louisiana, and Arizona, the main places they shot, add to the aesthetic of the film. After seeing a lot of films that were shot on sound stages or with CGI, the authenticity of The Magnificent Seven is appreciated.

  1. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Sorry, I got nothing. See how hard it is to have 7 focal points? That’s what the movie suffers from.

The Magnificent Seven comes down to this: If this isn’t your type of film, it won’t be very appealing. If it’s your kind of film, you will probably enjoy it, though I doubt it will be high on your list of favorites. A remake that doesn’t have a new message, or even a solid one at all, doesn’t seem like a remake worthy of anyone’s time. There is only so much enjoyment you can get out of actors running around in nice locations to a cool score before the emptiness of it appears

-Madeleine D

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