Hamlette’s been bugging me to post this, though I’m not sure why, when you could go read Millie’s review! Seriously, go read her review if you want a far better summary, and one that gives a really neat comparison to the original.
Anyway, for my viewing, I was pleasantly surprised and came out of the movie theater liking it a lot, and also looking for my horse so I could go ride off and fight bad guys. I drove home a little faster than necessary, cornering a bit swiftly... and that is ALWAYS a good sign that I enjoyed an action movie. An action movie that doesn't rev me up is a failure in my book. This one succeeded.
You can probably chalk this enjoyment up to a couple important things. One -- I had very low expectations going in, and, as I’ve long since learned, my expectations will totally dominate my first viewing. (Which is why I like to see things twice.) If I go in with high expectations, odds are I’ll be disappointed. If I go in expecting the worst, I’ll usually come out liking it. And I hated the trailer for this movie. I only ever saw one trailer, and it had some sort of rock music over it, and it was miserable. Nothing about the movie looked good in that trailer. I almost didn’t see the movie because of how much I didn’t like that trailer. I’m glad I ignored that inclination!
The second very important thing was that I did not spend the movie comparing it to the original while viewing it. I didn’t even think about the original at all until the crappy tacked on ending with the voice-over that mentioned the word “magnificent.” Then, I rolled my eyes. Because what made the original Magnificent Seven characters magnificent was that they went back. They had no reason to, they could have ridden away, but they didn’t. They rode back to the village, for no reward, no money, because they wanted to. Because there are more important things than money. There’s nothing like that in the new movie. In the new movie, they’re hired, they fight, they die/live, and it’s over. They’re still under hire in that final fight, they never leave and come back. And that fact keeps the original safely intact in its greatness.
However, taken on its own merits, as a movie about seven guys hired to help a town against the psycho who runs the town, this movie was a lot of fun. The movie flew by and was over before I was ready to leave that world. I got swept up in the characters and their issues, and my mind just didn't stray to the old movie.
What worked the best for me here was the characters. I was surprised how much I liked all of them. When Chris Pratt is playing my least favorite of the seven, that’s saying something. (Although, honestly, I think I love the concept of Chris Pratt, more than the actuality of him, if that makes any sense whatsoever. Or perhaps, I simply like the actor more than his characters. He seems so nice, and he’s so cute and likeable and cool, and I keep thinking that, therefore, I will like him in his movies, but for some unknown reason I haven’t really bonded with him in anything I’ve seen him in. Jurassic World came closest, except the velociraptors stole the movie, and so... not so much. I mean the dinosaurs did not steal the original movie from Sam Neill, and they were amazing, so I apparently just have a disconnect with Chris Pratt. On the other hand, Blue and her compadres are so awesome, they might very well have stolen the movie from anyone they played with, so it may just have been Pratt’s luck to be stuck with scene-stealing dinosaurs).
But the characters here are all distinct and all fun. I liked them all. Denzel... well Denzel is Denzel and can do no wrong. His Chisolm hits all the notes I wanted the leader of this group to hit. I'd hire him if I needed help, that's for sure. Ethan Hawke and Byung-hun Lee kill it as unlikely but awesome friends. They are amazing (separately and together), and every minute they were on screen was a joy. Vincent D’Onofrio is amusing and unexpectedly sweet as Jack Horne. Martin Sensmeier doesn’t have much to do, but Red Harvest was still intriguing and had more personality than some characters I’ve seen in movies who had a lot more dialogue. Chris Pratt’s Faraday was funny and likeable, even if I didn't bond with him. And my favorite character was Vasquez, played by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo. Loved him muchly, and you can believe I’ll be looking out for his next movies.
And when there are characters I love that much, not much else matters, and anything else is bonus. Like the scenery, which avoided the typical dry arid look of so many Westerns and gave this movie a unique location that I really appreciated. (It was filmed in Baton Rouge, I understand.) I love seeing greens in Westerns, and not just varying shades of brown.
I was worried from the trailer that it was simply trying to be bigger and badder than the original for the sake of outdoing it alone, but that wasn’t how it played out at all. The bad guy they set up in this movie (Peter Sarsgaard) WOULD hire an army. He would bring a gatling gun. I had none of the plot issues I expected to have extrapolating off what that crappy trailer had showed me. (I used to love trailers, but more and more these days, trailers are undercutting movies for me, not supporting them. I think I may just start ignoring them entirely before they give me a rash.)
As for the score, most of it is surprisingly dreary and unmemorable with a few bursts of melody and energy and scattered Horner moments. And that is just unfortunate. Horner himself composed some dreary music, (I’m thinking of last half of Beautiful Mind album), BUT it’s still emotional, it’s still got its melodies, it’s still got that gutpunch factor he brought to his music with such ease. This score has moments that give you a glimpse of what it might have been, then it falls back on more atmospheric blandness. It works far better in the movie than it does listening to it on its own, and to its credit, I've heard far worse scores than this one. This one just comes with a set of expectations that were impossible for me to suppress. I still bought the album, and I've listened to it quite a bit, as it is good writing music (where bland and atmospheric isn’t a detriment), but I wish... oh how I wish. I do hope someday that they release the supposedly seven completed pieces of music Horner composed for this before he died, just as he wrote them, not re-worked to fit the actual movie. That I would like to hear.
So, here’s the scoop for me: this film, taken on its own merits, ignoring what came before, is a violent but entertaining movie. I appreciated that this movie was PG-13, as well, as that meant it didn't get too gory, despite the body count. And because there aren’t enough Westerns in the world right now and I want more, I fully support any one that manages to entertain me this much. I will buy it when it comes out on DVD.