The Magnificent Seven (2016): Missing the Target
Updated: Aug 8, 2020
[The following observations were originally posted to my Twitter account. The text is reproduced here with minor edits for clarity.]
I recently rewatched Antoine Fuqua’s 2016 remake of The Magnificent Seven on television. It’s almost unbelievable how badly it manages to miss the point of both John Sturges’ original version and Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.
The celebratory tone of the ending narration is entirely antithetical to central theme of the earlier films. The battle against the bandits should not be characterized as “magnificent.” It’s a regrettable but necessary act of violence. Once victory has been achieved, it belongs to the farmers/settlers, because they are able to return to a “normal” life. The gunslingers/ronin have no place in the peaceful environment that they’ve created; their presence is no longer required or welcome.
Even worse, Fuqua makes Denzel Washington’s character personally invested in the main villain's defeat. His predecessors (Takashi Shimura's Shimada Kambei and Yul Brynner's Chris Adams), on the other hand, had little to gain from helping the peasants. Thus, Fuqua reduces a tale of altruism to a generic revenge plot.
I don’t completely hate the movie; judged on its own merits, it’s a fun little Western, featuring competently-directed action sequences and a phenomenal ensemble cast. But that title carries with it a certain responsibility—and unfortunately, Fuqua fails to live up to it.