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Friday, June 12, 2015

Seven Samurai vs. The Magnificent Seven

On today's FIlm Versus, we have a battle of a remake and the original with Seven Samurai vs. The Magnificent Seven. 
Before comparing the two films and deciding which one is the best, let’s discuss remakes of foreign language films and how they are translated to the American culture.

When adapting a foreign language film, not only is translating the language important, the writers must translate the culture so that it fits the different setting. Both American and Japanese fiction and legend have stories of skilled warriors helping small towns and villages. In America, that warrior is often the cowboy, and conversely, it is the samurai in Japan, thus why Japanese samurai films translate so well into the western genre. In regards to translation of language and culture, Smartling provides exceptional language translation software for businesses to translate websites or applications as a whole to preserve the original intent, so that the content can be easily shared with a global audience.

For example, Japan's samurai films, referred to as "chanbara," translated as "sword fighting," have had a surprising influence on western cinema. Due to both the Wild West and samurai eras featuring many of the same motifs, such as skilled swordsman/gunman facing insurmountable odds, the west has adapted various samurai films into westerns, with the one of the most notable being A Fistful of Dollars, a remake of Yojimbo. 

Now that you know how samurai films have influenced the western genre, let's move on to the showdown.

Plot Comparison
Taking place in 1587, during the Warring States Period of Japan, Seven Samurai tells the story of a village that hires seven lone samurai, also known as ronin, to protect their village from bandits. On the other hand, The Magnificent Seven, takes the original film's setting and moves it to the Wild West, an apt replacement for the Warring States Period, and obviously changes the samurai to gunman. Ultimately, the differences between the two in the overall narrative are minor aside from setting.

Characterization
Seven Samurai: Thanks to the long runtime, each character is given ample development and motivation. Each character follows a now familiar archetype with a likable personality and unexpectedly deep motivations. You get to know each and every one of the main cast, and while some receive more screen time than others, the characters are distinct from one another. However, the antagonists is notably weaker compared to the protagonists as they receive little development and are not particularly memorable.

The Magnificent Seven: Containing the same archetypes, The Magnificent Seven’s characters all have an undeniable cool factor to them, largely due to the all-star cast of actors. Towards the end a few of the character receive development, although it is not particularly deep or complex. However, the villain, Calvera, is a memorable foil to the heroes, as he is one of the more notable characters from the film.

Verdict - Seven Samurai: Despite The Magnificent Seven's antagonist being far more memorable, Seven Samurai's band of seven are further developed with more complex motivations, which is largely due to the much longer runtime.

Entertainment Value
Seven Samurai: Even though Seven Samurai is an engaging film, its pacing can be incredibly slow at times. It takes nearly 45 minutes before anything is set in motion. However, once the film reaches the second half of its nearly four hour runtime, the story moves along at a relatively swift pace. With that said, Seven Samurai is not a particularly rewatchable film. How often do you have enough time to rewatch something that is almost longer than two entire films!?

The Magnificent Seven: At a standard runtime of 128 minutes, The Magnificent Seven condenses the original film's story into something that fits the tone and pacing of a Hollywood action adventure flick. The result is a fun western adventure with plenty of action and old-school entertainment.

Verdict - The Magnificent Seven: Thanks to the much shorter runtime and faster pacing, Magnificent Seven is a more enjoyable and entertaining flick with greater rewatch value.

Direction
Akira Kurosawa: Kurosawa is a masterful director, one of the best to ever live, and Seven Samurai is among his best work visually. Despite having a much smaller budget than its contemporaries, Kurosawa manages to display a large sweeping landscape of the Warring States Period. The action sequences towards the end, filmed entirely in the rain and mud, while not as impressive today, was well ahead most other films from the era.

John Sturges: Sturges' directing of The Magnificent Seven is perfectly adequate for what the film required. It looked like a classic western flick, and it did not require anything special.

Verdict - Akira Kurosawa: While Sturges' direction is adequate, Kurosawa's direction is among the best of the era; this is an easy win for Seven Samurai.

Overall 
Verdict - Seven Samurai: While both films are classics in their respective genres, it is Seven Samurai that wins today's battle thanks to Kurosawa's visionary direction and deeper characterization. However, Magnificent Seven reminds one of the most fun and entertaining westerns to date, and neither film should be missed.

Which is your favorite? Have you seen either one? Please comment below and let me know!

If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

9 comments:

  1. Wow, I really like this verses idea, very interesting! And you're definitely right, The Magnificent Seven is one of the greatest westerns of all time, I flat out love it! But Seven Samurai is a classic none the less.

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    1. Thanks! Well, you cannot go wrong with either film; they are classic!

      -James

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  2. I lean for Seven Samurai because I saw it first and there are so many scenes that I can remember very clearly, even though I saw it maybe nine years ago! It is quite long, which is why I've just never gotten around to rewatching it, but I would love to do that some day! I still remember the one kinda crazy character and it makes me smile.

    Magnificent Seven is also a great film! I don't remember it as well, but there's a line from the beginning that has always stuck with me. So props to that film too!

    I think my favorite is Samurai Seven though XD

    ~Jamie

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    1. Considering it has been so long that you have seen it, definitely left an impression!

      -James

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  3. I have yet to see either of these films, but they both look good (especially with the different kinds of combat!). This was a cool post idea- seeing the similarities and differences was cool :)

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    1. Thanks! And I hope you give at least Seven Samurai a watch; it is one of the classic Japanese films.

      -James

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  4. I have seen The Magnificent Seven and really enjoyed it, especially Yule Brynner's character. It was so funny seeing him as a cowboy after seeing him in "The King and I" (Which is a great movie with classic dialogue that you should review.) I have not seen Seven Samurai but would like to, except it is so long. Calvera was a good villain. It is nice to see that villains are receiving more development recently, instead of being just another plot device. Good post.

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    1. I have not seen the King and I, I should check it out. I definitely recommend Seven Samurai if you have the time to watch it; it is a classic. I agree; the character development of villains recently has made those characters far more interesting.

      -James

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  5. I dearly love The Magnificent Seven and consider it the finest western ever made. I finally got to see The Seven Samurai last year, and while I'm super glad I saw it, and I did enjoy it, I feel no need to rewatch it. Whereas if I go more than a couple years between Mag7 viewings, I get twitchy.

    I like this idea for a blog series! Rarely do I like a remake more than the original, but I can think of a couple other instances where I have.

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One rule: No strong profanity. If you want to link to one of your posts, please do; I am always interested in other reviews and such.

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