I finally got around to watching the remake of The Magnificent Seven that came out in the fall (which the one that released in the ’60s was a remake of the Akira Kurosawa film Seven Samurai). I really enjoyed it and would put it up there as one of my favorite films of 2016. As I finished the film, I had some thoughts that marinated in my head between that film and another film that I just recently watched: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. (FYI there will be spoilers)
For those that don’t know the story of The Magnificent Seven, the premise of the film is a small town out in the Old West has been taken over by this crooked baron who wants to run everyone out of town and take over the mines for himself. Some of the townspeople seek out a group to protect and avenge the town. A team of seven men, outlaws and misfits in their own right, come together and fight for the town and for the people in it.
The team consists of a warrant officer (essentially a bounty hunter), gambler and ladies man, tracker and a mountain man, a war veteran and sharpshooter, an immigrant and assassin, a Mexican outlaw and finally an exiled Comanche warrior. Each one has their own unique story. Each one has their past which in some ways haunts them. And each one chooses to fight for honor and for the people of this town that had been oppressed.
These seven men are gathered together by the warrant officer Sam Chisholm (played by Denzel Washington in the film). Several of the men he knows personally going into this fight, others he comes to know along the way. By the time of the battle, each man has a vested interest in the fight beyond just the “payout”. They want to avenge the wrong taking place.
In a similar way, Rogue One has that same kind of vibe. There is the collection of a ragtag bunch. They eventually come together and fight a group that has been oppressing people. And they know going into the fight they are facing and overwhelming force that opposes them. This group of six, like the Magnificent Seven, have their own back stories and come together to fight for a good cause (here to steal the plans of the Death Star and get them to the Rebel Alliance).
After watching these two movies, I tend to think one of the flaws of Rogue One is something that is addressed better in The Magnificent Seven. In my initial thoughts post I wrote immediately after seeing Rogue One, I mentioned how I thought the character arcs of several characters seemed rushed. At the time I said it is a minor thing and in most ways I still think that but it does merit discussion.
As an audience we are supposed to be invested in Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, Chirrut Imwe, Baze Malbus, Bodhi Rook & K-2SO. They are that ragtag group we are to rally behind and cheer on as they make their way to steal the plans off of Scariff. But by the time this group is lifting off of Yavin IV and on their way, there is still some character building that could’ve been done. I was more invested in some characters than I was in others. But in The Magnificent Seven, it felt like they took the time to develop all the characters in a way that made you fully invested in them. When you have Sam Chisholm, Joshua Faraday, Goodnight Robicheaux, Jack Horne, Billy Rocks, Vasquez and Red Harvest all together ready for the big fight, it feels like you really know those characters and are invested in all of them.
The other big thing that stood out was essentially the ending. At the end of Rogue One, all of the team end up dead. This in and of itself isn’t bad but when you couple that with not feeling like you’re fully invested in the characters, it doesn’t resonate as much as say the death of Han Solo at the end of The Force Awakens. Also, in my personal opinion, there should’ve been at least one make it out at the end. To have someone standing at the end to feel the weight of the accomplishment while at the same time feel the burden of the loss of friends is a dramatic storyline that is worth pursuing. At the end of The Magnificent Seven you had three men at the end alive. The majority of the seven sacrificed their lives for the town and for their “team” so that the battle could be won. But you had the three that lived on who could remember the sacrifice made and tell the story.
The Magnificent Seven and Rogue One are two films that both tell compelling stories. They ultimately remind us that we are better in community. We are better working together as a team to solve problems and to overcome evil. In the end, that is what a good story truly has in it. It’s about team building and fighting the good fight.