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Siskoid's avatar


It took me about half of Spielberg's West Side Story to stop myself wondering if the original could suffer a remake. Sure, it's Spielberg, so it's slick and there's a lot of money on the screen, and of course it looks more modern than Bob Wise's 1961 version. But it's still a period piece and kind of old-fashioned, and while it's not as iconic as, say, The Sound of Music (which you can't imagine without Julie Andrews, whereas it's good to have an option where white people don't play Puerto Ricans), it's still pretty up there in the pantheon of musicals on film. But I love Sondheim, even when scored by someone else, so here we were. The second half won me over for various reasons. Mainly, Rita Moreno as the store owner has an expanded part and isn't just an Easter Egg. She even gets a song! Obviously, it's well put together (and my distrust of latter-day Spielberg is usually connected to his veneered proficiency which holds me at a distance), and he expands this 20-block world pretty cleverly. He moves some songs around to make the tragedy more ironic. Visually, I feel like Romeo and Juliet is better referenced. It's a little harder-edged than the 1961 film (thus closer to what you might see on Broadway), not only in terms of showing racism, but in having Anybodys an overtly trans character (and played by trans actor Ezra Menas). It makes the film more uncomfortable and you're less likely to take sides. The question "Are you a Jet or a Shark?" shouldn't come up after viewing. Having the Puerto Ricans speak a lot of Spanish is a bold move too, and while I know the story and am good at context clues, I wouldn't have minded subtitles here and there - it contributed to my at-times cold reception. Funny story about the theater audience: One lady shouted out "OH MY GOD!" during the tragic climax, which made me realize I often take certainly cultural touchstones for granted, but for some, it will be their first experience with the musical and, uhm, with Shakespeare, I guess!
5 months 1 week ago
dpka's avatar


It is not unnecessary and it is not great either.
2 months 3 weeks ago
Advent's avatar


Steven Spielberg out here doing the impossible.
5 months 2 weeks ago
ucuruju's avatar


So faithful that it ends up being both unnecessary and more than a bit antiquated. The last act builds enough momentum to work quite well but a lot of it just... doesn't.
5 months 1 week ago
chunkylefunga's avatar


Not a bad remake, just not really needed.

Nice to see Latinos actually used for latino roles.

To those saying it's annoying that the Spanish wasn't subtitled. That's the point guys.
2 months 2 weeks ago
baraka92's avatar


Well, I do think it's better than the original, even though I wrote a comment back in December saying the opposite. After watching it a couple of times in the theater I changed my mind. Wise's version is still great. Both can coexist since Spielberg's approach is different by being more grounded. These are some of the best changes:

- No parents (in the '61 version they are mentioned... and alive! but add absolutely nothing).
- Lt. Schrank exposition at the beginning.
- Riff is more nuanced and tragic (Faist is the Oscar snub of the year IMO).
- Rita Moreno as Doc's widow.
- The gun getting introduced naturally to the plot.
- Cool (it works better as part of the story, even though I still prefer the intensity of the choreography in the original).
- Somewhere.
- Amping up the tragedy. Spielberg really went with it. spoiler It's just heartbreaking.

The only things I didn't like were I Feel Pretty (the number on its own is sweet but even Sondheim admitted the irony of its placement didn't work) and America (It's not bad but they seemed very conscious that it's such an iconic song and stuff).

Finally, I thought this was going to change for home viewing but it didn't. As someone who speaks both spanish and english, I think Spielberg's decision to not add subtitles is misguided if not outright stupid. I love when the native language of a character is respected. That was enough. I HATE using this term, but this is some PC mental gymnastics that don't make sense in any way. Imagine Tarantino doing the same for Inglorious Basterds. Subtitles are good Steven.

Besides that... Great! Great movie!
2 months 2 weeks ago
nowhereman136's avatar


About as well as a remake of an already great movie could be. Everything about this movie was great, and added just enough to stand out from the original film without feeling unnecessary. Spielberg should do more Musicals.

5 months 1 week ago
greenhorg's avatar


My first thought when watching the beautiful candy-colored musicals of the 50s and 60s is always "Great, but can't it be ugly?" Like can we wash out most of the color, and give it kind of a muddy digital feel. Also where are the fucking lens flares? So I was pretty much thrilled with this aesthetically enhanced update to the 1961 classic. Although I was disappointed Spielberg did not switch to comic sans for the title font.
3 weeks 2 days ago
Zuma's avatar


Documentary on lens flare. How to add it to almost every scene, every discussion, every character's face as they are talking. All the time, every time.

Still way better than the original.
2 months ago
Matt Addis's avatar

Matt Addis

Doesn’t really add much besides sleeker production and a lot of unnecessary lens flare. Everything great about this movie was what was already inherently great about the musical. The original is still superior
2 months 3 weeks ago
dantheman89's avatar


5 months 2 weeks ago
Caerus's avatar


At a high level everything about this is a great - performances, cinematography, and of course music.

Unfortunately it's a remake of a still-beloved musical from 60 years ago which brings along a lot of extra baggage - namely why does this exist?

The entire pitch of this movie seems to be "we noticed some problematic portrayals of race in a 60 year old movie, lets redo it". I really don't get the decision to only fix those; but not update the movie to reflect all of the other social changes that occurred in the mean time. If it had been set in the modern day with updated plots this movie could have actually become something interesting; instead of a movie that is still set in 1957 with a weird mishmash of 1957 and 2021 values.

We're left with a movie that is technically excellent but never really makes a case for coming out in 2021.
1 month 3 weeks ago
TiRex's avatar


I hated the original. At least this one is watchable.
2 months 1 week ago
frankqb's avatar


Overflowing with Spielberg's stylistic panache and vivacious visuals, the West Side Story remake also manages to look decidedly retro in its film quality. The only problem is that Spielberg doesn't seem to have the flair for musical theatre choreography's blocking requirements on screen. So many times the musical flourishes paired with choreographed visuals were only half seen or underwhelming.

Is the movie enjoyable? Yes. Is it better than the original? No.

4 stars out of 5
2 months 3 weeks ago
Alias's avatar


*takes out cigar* Spielbergs' still got it, baby!
2 months 2 weeks ago

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