Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #905: The Magnificent 5' 7"

Tom Cruise has reportedly signed on with MGM to do a remake of the classic Western action movie The Magnificent Seven as part of MGM's policy of doing remakes guaranteed to offend fans of the original.

Now if you've spent your entire life living in a cave on an island in the Antarctic Ocean I'll do a little explaining.

The Magnificent Seven, directed by John Sturges, is itself an American Western remake of the Akira Kurosawa directed Japanese epic Seven Samurai which was inspired by American Westerns. 

The story for both films is pretty straightforward, a village of peaceful farmers find out that a veritable army of bandits are planning to come and rob them of everything they have. An attempt by villagers to buy weapons results in the hiring of seven highly skilled, but otherwise unemployed, and outcast warriors to do the fighting for them.
Much fighting ensues, and the final theme is how the world is changing and old school men of action, be they ronin samurai, or gunfighters are being left behind.

So let's take a moment to look at the PROS & CONS of this idea!


1. THE STAR: Right now Tom Cruise is as hot as he's been in a very long time. Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol was a monster hit and revived his cinematic fortunes after an extended period of mediocrity, and a failed stint as owner of United Artists. So if MGM is going to do something with a star, they could do worse than Cruise right now.

2. THE STORY: The story itself is timeless. Mercenaries taking one last shot at redemption defending people unable to defend themselves, and learning that their violent ways are the ways of a fading past, and not the future.


1. THE STAR: Tom Cruise is not very good at  being part of the sort of ensemble cast that's needed for a Magnificent Seven type film. He must be the center of attention at all times, or he's just not going to be in it. While Yul Brynner was the "star" of the Magnificent Seven, the attention was spread around so you could get to know the characters played by Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Brad Dexter, Horst Bucholz and Robert Vaughn, and sympathize with them. I just don't see it happening with Cruise in the lead. In fact I agree with David Cohen from Variety who tweeted "Okay, so how do you have Tom Cruise in The Magnificent Seven without it becoming The Magnificent One And His Six Sidekicks?" He's going to have to learn to play well with others if he's going to make this film a success.

2. THE ORIGINAL: People love the John Sturges version, and foreign language buffs love the Kurosawa version. I happen to love both. Those who love the "originals" are probably going to resent this proposed remake as a big movie star ego-wank.

But all is not lost.

I think something can be done with the premise, but it must have an identity of its own the way Sturges did when he adapted it from the Kurosawa film.

This is not as hard as it looks. The fundamental premise could be set in any place and time that is beset by anarchy and lawlessness. I suggest they flip through the history books and find a place and time that hasn't really been used in film before where seven mercenaries can find redemption through the barrel of a gun. 

I would suggest reading Setting The East Ablaze by Peter Hopkirk for inspiration. It's about the chaos of post World War 1 Asia, and has a great villain in the form of the "Mad Baron" Roman Nickolai Maximilian von Ungern Sternberg, an exiled Russian nobleman who led a horde of fanatics who looted and slaughtered their way across Mongolia and China. (The story of his death is like something out of a really bat-shit movie.)

Tom Cruise plays an American mercenary working as a bodyguard in China who is recruited by a pacifist community in the Mad Baron's path to help defend them. Cruise then recruits six more mercenaries (played by a mix of Asian, American, & European action movie stars) who all have their own reasons for taking the job. Give it a title with the number "7" in it that's different from the other movies, and let the carnage begin. 

It's a win-win, because you can get some of that sweet Chinese money plus the key to the Chinese market by making it a China-USA co-production.


  1. Mr. D, you say that the story of Magnificent 7 is timeless, but that it is about time changing from violence to a different way of life. How can the theme of times changing in a particular way be timeless? I can imagine saying, ironically, that the theme of the idea of times changing in general is timeless - but if you attach a particular type of change to that theme, then it can no longer be a universal truth for societies in general for all times.

    Not Dirty Dingus McGee

  2. You be talkin' all in circle like. Hyuk.

  3. Contra Glove23/5/12 9:04 am

    You know, I'd actually watch this.

    Of course, it's not going to get made, and that's the sad part. :(

  4. Mr. D,
    let me spell it out for you. Times change. History moves on. Things do not remain the same. THAT is what is timeless - the paradox that the only constant of history is that it changes with time.

    What is NOT timeless is a particular type of change. If the change from violent eras to peaceful eras was a constant through history, then would we not eventually arrive at a permanently non-violent place?

    That was my point.

  5. Rainforest Giant here,


    I see that this movie should be made. The guy sounds like he's just waiting to fight against Fu Manchu.

  6. I saw a photo of Urgen-Sternberg in a book, & Oy gevalt he was showing a bad case of Psycho-eyes.