Kittens, please. OF COURSE we’ve got opinions on this one.
And those thoughts are … to be found at the bottom of the post. We’re not trying to be tricky here, but a teaser trailer is entirely about the mood and the aesthetic of a film, so take a good look at these shots and screencaps:
Okay, here’s what: This trailer and these promo shots don’t do anything to convince us that there was a reason to make this film. First off, we have no problem with remakes, even remakes of classic and beloved films. Remakes are a Hollywood tradition that’s literally as old as motion pictures themselves. Just look at how many Ben Hurs, Draculas, Great Gatsbys, Phantom of the Operas, and A Star is Borns there have been over the last century. Second, there is a very good argument to be made that this version can be seen as a corrective to the outmoded brownface casting of the original, which had almost no Puerto Rican or Latinx cast members aside from Rita Moreno. But we think we’d be a lot more open to that second argument if, say, Lin Manuel Miranda had directed or written this instead of Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner. To be fair, the casting of Latinx, Black and biracial actors does lend this film a lot more richness and authenticity automatically. We’re excited to see Ariana DeBose’s Anita in particular. But we’re confused and a bit surprised by how much this trailer looks like the original film, except with better sets and locations. They replicated Natalie Wood’s gym dance costume almost exactly and aside from the staging of the “America” number, which looks much better on location and in the street than it did on a fake-looking soundstage, all of the iconic scenes look extremely similar to the original. They even divided the Sharks and Jets up by color in the gym scene, exactly like the original:
Spielberg is an extremely adept filmmaker, of course. There’s no doubt in our minds this will be a beautiful production and that he’ll use every tool in his considerable arsenal to make you cry when you’re supposed to. It seems almost impossible to consider that this would be a badly made film in any way. But if you’re going to return to a classic sixty years later, why would you want to produce something that looks largely the same? That’s what the original is for, after all.
Directed by Academy Award® winner Steven Spielberg, from a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award® winner Tony Kushner, “West Side Story” tells the classic tale of fierce rivalries and young love in 1957 New York City. This reimagining of the beloved musical stars Ansel Elgort (Tony); Rachel Zegler (María); Ariana DeBose (Anita); David Alvarez (Bernardo); Mike Faist (Riff); Josh Andrés Rivera (Chino); Ana Isabelle (Rosalía); Corey Stoll (Lieutenant Schrank); Brian d’Arcy James (Officer Krupke); and Rita Moreno (as Valentina, who owns the corner store in which Tony works). Moreno – one of only three artists to be honored with Academy®, Emmy®, GRAMMY®, Tony® and Peabody Awards – also serves as one of the film’s executive producers.
Bringing together the best of both Broadway and Hollywood, the film’s creative team includes Kushner, who also serves as an executive producer; Tony Award® winner Justin Peck, who choreographed the musical numbers in the film; renowned Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor and GRAMMY Award® winner Gustavo Dudamel, who helmed the recording of the iconic score; Academy Award®-nominated composer and conductor David Newman (“Anastasia”), who arranged the score; Tony Award®-winning composer Jeanine Tesori (“Fun Home,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie”), who supervised the cast on vocals; and Grammy®-nominated music supervisor Matt Sullivan (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Chicago”), who served as executive music producer for the film. The film is produced by Spielberg, Academy Award®-nominated producer Kristie Macosko Krieger and Tony Award®-winning producer Kevin McCollum. “West Side Story” has been adapted for the screen from the original 1957 Broadway show, with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and concept, direction and choreography by Jerome Robbins.
From 20th Century Studios, The Walt Disney Company will release “West Side Story” in U.S. theaters on December 10, 2021.
[Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise/2020 Twentieth Century Fox – Video Credit: 20th Century Studios via YouTube]