The Magnificent Seven might be one of the few 2016 reboots to have a good run in theaters. Overall, it’s been otherwise disastrous for remakes. Disney’s live-action retelling of The Jungle Book was one of the rare bright spots, but with few studios know how to cater to nostalgia and families quite like Disney.
So, what does new The Magnificent Seven film have to offer audiences weary of unoriginal movie ideas? Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the film movie features popular actors Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. The cast is ethnically diverse, and the major woman character doesn’t come across as your typical “damsel in distress.” These changes could bring a wider audience to theaters than previous versions.
Another plus? A remake of The Magnificent Seven isn’t outright offensive to audience sensibilities. The western epic is loosely based on the Japanese classic The Seven Samurai. Therefore, the concept was something of a “reboot” from its inception. In addition to the 1960 original and lesser-known 1972 sequel, there was also a television series that ran from 1998 to 2000.
At this rate, there will probably be another version of The Magnificent Seven in ten or twenty years. As for the current remake, casting and timing seem to have worked remarkably in its favor.
Still, there are a couple of pitfalls it will need to avoid, at least, as to snags similar to what cost Ghostbusters and Ben-Hur box office dollars.
The Magnificent Seven needs to know it’s target audience — and avoid upsetting them. Ghostbusters failed miserably in this regard. It’s worth noting that the paranormal reboot was the target of one of the most shamelessly sexist backlashes in movie history. Misogyny aside, the final project proved to be a forgettable reimagining of a much better movie. Gender swaps have worked for franchises before. For instance, CBS’s Elementary made the character of Dr. Watson a woman.
If a story is solid enough and a movie or show entertaining enough, such changes will only be grieved by a prejudiced few. However, when a project is bland and depressingly predictable, nothing can save it from failure — not even righteous anger.
The Magnificent Seven should also aim to be worthy of its predecessor and its price tag. According to the Atlantic, Ben-Hur failed to accomplish either goal.
“Ben-Hur‘s failure wasn’t just that it couldn’t appeal to Christian audiences. But its poor box-office take seems to reflect countless misguided Hollywood strategies, all of which have combined for a particularly lackluster blockbuster season this summer.
“Ben-Hur highlights the diminishing returns studios are seeing from the endless cycle of reboots and sequels, and exposes the folly of relying on name recognition and old marketing formulas.”
No one could have predicted that Ben-Hur would flop at the box office quite as hard as it did, opening with an anemic $11.4 million. The Magnificent Seven cost just $5 million less than Ben-Hur and needs to have a strong debut to at least break even. Big budget remakes are common, but they’re not the sure bet that Hollywood seems to think they are. Costly failures could force studios to consider more carefully what’s reboot-worthy.
If The Magnificent Seven successfully charms fall moviegoers, it may even strengthen the Western genre. The film niche is enduring, but not exactly a sure bet for blockbuster-level success.
The Magnificent Seven will need both strong word-of-mouth to help build buzz and a positive reception among critics. An excited audience and positive audience response can even boost box office numbers when critics don’t like a movie. That probably helped the much-maligned Suicide Squad. Despite flack from movie reviewers, it managed to gross nearly $300 million domestically, and $635 million worldwide.
The good news is that The Magnificent Seven is already highly anticipated. According to USA Today, a poll by Fandango has the Western film as the second-most anticipated fall movie — behind Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, a Harry Potter prequel set in America.
If the movie runners can build on that anticipation, then The Magnificent Seven will likely succeed where other reboots failed in less than glorious fashion.
[Image via MGM, Columbia Pictures]