Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Magnificent Seven Disaster

Come on, really?

There's a remake for The Magnificent Seven on the way, and it's coming out in September.

Hold on a second, let's look over that sentence again.

1) They're remaking The Magnificent Seven, possibly the greatest western of all time, using all the classic themes of literature going back to Seven Against Thebes. It is a remake of the excellent Japanese film Seven Samurai, only the director of THAT film said that the western remake was even BETTER than his own work.

2) It's coming out IN SEPTEMBER. In a Hollywood that releases its "hits" in either the summer or winter. This tells me a great many things about the quality of this film, and its predicted box office intake.

Let's, for a moment, have a discussion about the original.

If you recall, the original western, The Magnificent Seven was about a small Mexican village being regularly raided by Mexican marauders. The village doesn't have a lot of money, but they have a solution -- find gunfighters who will work for food, or at least work for cheap. The men they find are largely broken. One is a get-rick-quick schemer who thinks that his friends are really there for goal near the village (because why else would mercenaries be doing this?). One is an old hand who has completely lost his nerve and is trying to find it again (Robert Vaughn). One is half Irish and half Mexican, and is essentially an outcast by both ends of society (Charles Bronson). One is brand new to the profession, and at first, just wants in on the action, but might be finding love in all the right places.

At the end of the day, the moral of the story was about teaching the villagers themselves to stand up on their own two feet and drive off the invading army. There was a lot about redemption, a little bit about racism, a little bit about the power of bravery and defending your home, and that sometimes the real heroes are the people who have no weapons except what's to hand.

That's the short version.

Let's take a look at the trailer for a moment, shall we?

Yes, yes, if we must. Sigh

So, who else sees it? Who else is looking at this thinking that this may not be quite what the original film had in mind?

If you don't see it, let me show you.

To start with, we've got the standard God-fearing folk with the really thick Southernish accent. The marauders I can see look an awful lot like the townsfolk. In fact, the bad guys here are extremely well-dressed white folk. Hell, they look like Pinkerton's -- vests, ties, jackets, good hats, shiny guns. Why, if I didn't know better, I would swear that they were -- gasp -- evil big businessmen.

No, seriously, why are well-dressed rich white urbanites terrorizing a small rural village? Did they decide to make the "gold" thing real this time? Maybe they're after oil ... no, wait, wasn't gas a bad thing back then. It blew up while digging tunnels and there weren't cars to make gasoline for? Is there a good reason for this?

This is the money shot of the bad guys, if the trailer is any indication.

And, hold on a sec. we have a random member of the tribes thrown in? What? Why? What is he? Odd Job? You know, the random Bond villain sidekick that fits in not at all with everyone else?

And for the record, after going through the IMDB page for this new version, and clicking on character names, I discovered that it's a nice cheat sheet. The villain is played by Peter Sarsgaard, an actor who's whiter than I am. I think that's him, second from the left.

Because I guess no Mexican characters can be portrayed as villainous? I don't know, I didn't write this script.

Geez. Okay, let's continue. Because ... oh dear. What? What are you doing, Hollywood? You put one of The Magnificent Seven into traditional Indian warpaint, and gave him a bow and arrow. In a gunfighting movie? Wow, that's just ... really?

Martin Sensmeier
Yes, in the original film, Charles Bronson was cast as "Bernardo O'Reilly" (probably a take on the Chilean hero Bernardo O'Higgins). If a Pole playing an Irish-Mexican is head scratching to you, keep in mind that this was 1960s Hollywood, Bronson had played EVERY ethnicity except for his own during his career, and this film also had Eil Wallach playing the Mexican bandit leader.

The man with the bow and arrow in the trailer is Martin Sensmeier, playing "Red Harvest." On the one hand, he is of the tribes of Alaska, as well as half Irish. On the other hand, "Red Harvest"? Really? In the original, Bronson's heritage was in his name. He couldn't escape it, nor would he on a dare -- he was proud of both, and screw you if you don't like it.  With this? I'm going to take a wild, crazy shot in the dark that there isn't going to be an awful lot of "trapped between two cultures."

Why do I say that? Because they gave him a bow and arrow and war paint in the middle of a gunfighter film. And because the bad guys have an obligatory Indian, therefore, it must be one against the other. Because stupid Hollywood tropes.

Also, he's the guy on the far right.

Speaking of stupid Hollywood tropes, Yul Brenner, who played "Chris" in the original, has been replaced by Denzel Washington. I will grant them that cowboys in the old west were at least 50% black, if not mostly black. It was a job, they did it, collected a paycheck, have a nice day. I've got very little problem with him being black ... I think I have a problem with him being Denzel Washington. While I have not seen his Equalizer, I have seen his Man on Fire. I do not like him as an action hero.

And did they have to change his name to "Sam Chisolm?" No, really, I must ask, is there something wrong with the name Chris? Did I miss a memo? Is "Chris" now a racist name?

Now, if you look at the trailer, you might suspect that Washington's second in command would be played by Chris Pratt. In the original, the second gunfighter we meet is played by handsome leading man Steve McQueen. So, obviously, that must be who Chris Pratt is playing, right?

EEEEE, WRONG!  Chris Pratt is playing the young ingenue of the roster. In the original that was "Chico," the son of a farmer who might have just enough inborn talent to not die during the fracas. In the original, he's the pain in the ass who won't go away, and has to prove himself just to get on board this suicide mission. And yes, he was a little Hispanic. Just a bit.

But nope, apparently, one Hispanic was enough for this collection of seven. And obviously, in the trailer, Pratt is being recruited. So, huh, that's odd.

In this one, the Steve McQueen part is being played by ... Vincent D'Onofrio.


While I believe in the power of D'Onofrio's acting, there is no power on Earth to make me imagine him as Steve McQueen.

In the original film, Robert Vaughn played "Lee," a slightly older gunfighter, a burnout trying to get his mojo back. He will be replaced by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (on the right), playing "Vasquez." (As you can tell, the original wasn't big on first and last names.)

A show of hands, please -- does anyone think that Vasquez will be a burnout, and possibly a coward? I mean, look at this guy? Does he look old enough to be a burnout to you? He's thirty five.

Sigh ... moving right along.

Number six is being played by Ethan Hawke who ... wait, I'm sorry, does he even have a career anymore? Last time I saw him was in that painfully slow Taking Lives, and the just plain laughable The Purge. Why is he allowed on stage? Anyway, in the original, his character was a bit of a shyster con man, looking for the nearest buck. I'm terribly ambivalent about this role, since I've already started profusely bleeding from the head wound caused by banging my head against the wall.

And then, number seven, is the character played by the late great James Coburn, the character described as the "best with knife or gun." He is the best, fastest man of them all.

He's being played by Byung-hun Lee. Best known for being in two GI Joe films, and Terminator: Genisys.

Yes ...


So, wait a second, let me just get this straight. Tilda Swinton must play the old wise Chinese man because "old wise Chinese man" is a racist stereotype (or something), and Iron Fist is played by an actor who's "too white," but Byung-hun Lee must be brought in to play the martial artist, because all Asian men are martial artists?

Someone should show me on a chart where Hollywood gets its idea of racism from, because I'm just confused.

And, by the way, look at Lee in the trailer. He doesn't have a knife on him. He has an entire belt that is nothing but knives. And these aren't throwing knives, they look more like Bowie knives. Hello, Legolas called, he wants his short swords back. Last time I saw a character carry that many blades on him, it was a Robert Rodriquez film (Desperado, I loved that film, it was so over the top). Can't do something subtle, now can we? Nah. We have to have him bristling with swords. Ugh. Wonderful.

Now that we're done with the cast ... oh my dearest Lord in Heaven, how I hate, I just HATE this music.  I'm actually a fan of the House of the Rising Sun, and I don't even object to this version, but for the love of ...

You heard the soundtrack in the trailer.

This is the original soundtrack. Listen for one minute.

Solid opening. Steady buildup, and then BOOM.

What the Hell is wrong with these people that they swapped out Elmer Bernstein for House of the Rising Sun? Unless this is New Orleans -- and damn, is it obviously not -- there is no way on God's green Earth that this is even appropriate for the trailer.

The sad thing is? The music for the new version is done by the late James Horner, who brought you the amazing soundtrack to Wrath of Khan. More on that later.

So far, I have concerns. Why? Well, on the one hand, they could do something as strange as just making a mindless action flick, where they're doing canon and Gatling guns. Which would be nice, but do you really remake something like this just to make a simple popcorn flick? Or do you do it to send a message?

My worry for this film is that they've decided "Hey, it wasn't enough that their profession and their personal vices made them outcasts, let's make half of them racial outcasts, too. Because. And hell, we might make them 8 just to include a woman. And let's make it about white rich people beating up on poor white people, because that's every other western in the universe, including Blazing Saddles, and Shane was this awesome film about class warfare, so shouldn't we do the same?"

Does anyone want to place bets that it has none of the redemption elements of the original, except for white Christian townspeople to be redeemed by celebrating diversity?

Also, given the trailer, I can't imagine the moral of the story to be "7 men teach peasants the power of standing up and fighting for your livelihood."

However, on the other hand, I hold on to just one bare silver of hope.

The director of this one is Antoine Fuqua, who was being the awesome action films Olympus has Fallen. Also, James Horner, in fact, had persuaded Fuqua to to the film. So this may not suck. On the other hand, he was also being Tears of the Sun, that terrible King Arthur film with Jude Law and Keira Knightly, and screwed up the Stephen Hunter novel Point of Impact when he made the film Shooter.

In short, I am not holding my breath.


  1. Next up: an all female version of my favorite 'Magnificent Seven' remake, The Three Amigos. It won't just be famous, it will be infamous!

  2. I'm not so sure I'm against the general idea, I'll rather wait and see if it's like the remake of Karate Kid or the one for El Alamo. It did shock me some, however, the sheer amount of money in knives the guy's carrying. And he's supposed to throw them away? Sure, and get them back. Er... No. It doesn't work that way.

    Take care.

    1. It might be an awesome film. It certain has some good actors -- four -- but we'll see. I won't hold my breath

  3. Strangely, I've heard good things from people who have little tolerance for Hollyweird nonsense. Yes, about this movie. After "The Cell", and "Strange Days" that appalling "Sherlock" (from 2000) special, I'll watch anything D'Onofrio is in once.*[Edit: I've now just looked at his CV. It may yet challenge this notion, but I'll stand behind the statement that he is watchable doing pretty much anything] Though I'll admit, having his name on the label is no guarantee it will be worth the price of admission.

  4. Strangely, I've heard good things from people who have little tolerance for Hollyweird nonsense. Yes, about this movie. After "The Cell", and "Strange Days" that appalling "Sherlock" (from 2000) special, I'll watch anything D'Onofrio is in once.*[Edit: I've now just looked at his CV. It may yet challenge this notion, but I'll stand behind the statement that he is watchable doing pretty much anything] Though I'll admit, having his name on the label is no guarantee it will be worth the price of admission.


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