'Magnificent Seven' debuts at Toronto: Newest restart for Western genre?

'The Magnificent Seven' stars Chris Pratt, Denzel Washington, and Ethan Hawke, and is a remake of the 1960 film. Western movies often seem to be declared gone, yet critically acclaimed entires in the genre have been released in the past decade.

Sam Emerson/MGM/Columbia Pictures/Sony/AP
'The Magnificent Seven' stars Chris Pratt.

The remake of “The Magnificent Seven” premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on Thursday evening, the newest high-profile Western project: a genre which is often declared to be having a comeback, but which may have never completely disappeared in the first place.

“Magnificent,” which is a remake of the 1960 film starring Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner (itself a take on the 1954 movie “Seven Samurai”), stars Chris Pratt, Denzel Washington, and Ethan Hawke, among at least four others. 

The movie is an entry in the Western genre, with the story centering on a group of men who agree to aid a threatened town.

The Western genre is often considered to be gone forever, then revived. Recent well-received films in the genre in the last decade are this summer’s “Hell or High Water,” which has attracted critical acclaim; the 2010 movie “True Grit”; and the well-reviewed 2007 movie “3:10 to Yuma.” 

“People say the Western is dead almost as often as they say film is dead,” BBC writer Sam Adams said, following the debut of “Magnificent.” 

Where the Western seems to have been surviving is in these smaller, well-reviewed films, writes Michael Agresta of The Atlantic. It’s bigger movies like “Cowboys & Aliens” and “The Lone Ranger” that have struggled to find audiences, and therefore not been successes financially. 

“Although end-of-year prestige movies like ‘True Grit’ and ‘Django Unchained’ have broken through to achieve critical acclaim, Oscars, and substantial return on investment, the Obama era has not been kind to newfangled Westerns that aimed for large audiences,” Mr. Agresta writes. “Exacerbating the problem is the rejection of cowboy movies by international audiences, particularly the Chinese.”

Entertainment Weekly writer Darren Franich notes that the genre doesn’t have a massive presence at the multiplex, but believes that some of the best Westerns ever, including “3:10” and “Django,” have been released within the last decade. 

“Westerns aren’t huge,” Mr. Franich writes. “But they also aren’t going away.”

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