Wednesday, September 12, 2007

3:10 To Yuma (2007)

Finally saw the new 3:10 To Yuma last night.

Overall: good not great. I did see the original first (which I loved, if you recall).

The Good: setting, action, character designs, music.

The use of a snowy background in the final scenes was a beautiful choice. It was almost an alien landscape. The bright white pops up in the background of this dusty brown town so suddenly that it jarred me. The rest of the locations were appropriately beautiful as well, though sometimes the shots of the group could have been a bit wider to better show their location.

The action was pretty good. Good gunfights, though the sound effects could have been a bit better. For the most part, they were better than the canned sound effects of, say, Young Guns or something, but they weren't at the level of Open Range. Mangold went for realistic with his sounds, so he should have aimed for Open Range's heights. He did add a bit of character to the different character's gun sounds, though, and that was cool. The shootouts were pretty well staged, and I desperately want Tanaka or Marushin to make a Schofield now.

Mangold did a good job making each character look distinct. It wasn't just "Western guy 1 with brown hat" and "Western guy 2 with lighter brown hat and dark pants." You had Ben Wade, dressed as a gentleman gunfighter, with bowler and nice-but-dusty suit and sweet-but-irrelevant-to-the-story "Hand of God" Colt S.A.A.; Dan, skinny and scraggly with one leg and plain, droopy, drab clothes, armed with a Sharps rifle (which, even though it is said that he is a crack-shot, is never put to good use); Charlie Prince, bearded and clad in a distinct cream leather jacket, armed with dual Schofields; Byron, aged bounty hunter wielding a sweet looking shortened shotgun (which is a carry-over from the original movie -- the gun, not the character, oddly).

The music was well-done and clearly inspired by Morricone's style. I appreciated that Mangold chose to use this sort of music rather than some sweeping orchestral score.

The Meh: padding the story with extra scenes and characters, shortening the best parts from the 1957 movie.

There were several scenes and characters in the new one not present in the first adaptation. Some were OK (like the scene with the Apache attack) just because they had some cool action, but none of them added much to the story. Adding Dan's kid to the mix didn't do a whole lot for me either. In the original, it was sufficient to show his family's disappointment at his ranch and then leave him to wrestle with that on his own for the rest of the movie. Keeping the kid around the entire time artificially created a tension that wasn't as interesting or dramatic, because it took focus away from Dan and also diluted Dan's decision-making process. (If the kid is right there, there's much more pressure to "do the right thing," and it makes his decision less about him having the courage to do what is right and more about "well, can't look bad in front of the kid.")

This also hurts my favorite aspect of the original movie, the moral conflict between Wade and Dan. It's just not as well-executed in this new one. I really felt for Dan in the original, and you could just see this moral anguish going on in his head the whole time as Wade tortures him in the hotel room. It was some profound stuff, and it comes off as forced and awkward in Mangold's version. Also, it's not as efficient in its storytelling. The 1957 version seemed to center entirely around the waiting in the hotel room, which was the most interesting and provocative part of the story, while the 2007 version treated that scene like any other and just moved through it.

Another (rather odd) negative aspect is Bale's physicality versus Van Heflin's. For whatever reason, Mangold made Bale scrawny, greasy, and weak-looking. You never once thought he could take Crowe in a fight. In the original, Van Heflin is physically bigger than Ford, and this makes his character that much more tragic. It's a minor detail, but it made me sympathize with him more. Here is a man who you can see once had the respect of others, who had control over his own destiny, and who has now lost the respect of his own family and has to beg for money. The physical difference tipping the other direction worked better for the conflict between Ben and Dan.

New 3:10 - fun, satisfies my desire for some Western action, but not the great movie that the old 3:10 is.

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