Seven Samuarai is a really cool movie. I saw it when I was young and pretentious, and I rewatched it for our podcast on Guardians of the Galaxy (to be posted soon on Media Said So), now that I’m older and pretentious.
1. It may be the OG “assemble a team” flick. Matt Singer says the Michael Jeck says so. It was made in 1954, which is a couple of years before Reservoir Dogs or The Avengers, so that may be true. For more on this check out Matt Singer’s article.
2. The stakes is high. More on this from Damon Houx: ”
"What Kurosawa did was have these men gather together to fight a war of impossible odds. That is nothing new. But what is new is that there is no great glory in winning."
They do their job and they know what might happen. (Just like us! Samurai are people just like us!)
3. Besides the stoic and sage roles in the group (Houx covers this too), I think we get our first tension-breaking bandit. ‘Kikuchiyo’ is kind of a spazzy hanger-on to the group, and whenever things get heavy or bad things happen he calls them out on it. He grew up rough. So then we get Han Solo in Star Wars, Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy (and actually Peter Quill in the Annihilation comics), Steve Buscemi in Reservoir Dogs, etc. Like them he can do his job. When Kikuchiyo fights he seems bigger than everyone else. I’m probably not the first to come up with this but I didn’t see it around.
4. I love the sound in the action scenes. I want to make a video comparing the sound in the action scenes to other action scene movies. You’re there. You can hear the horses pounding down the mountain and the slapping sandals of the units as they run to cover different points in the village. The fights speak for themselves.
5. The tension from the class differences between the protectors and the protected. A Bug’s Life (adaptation!) gets around this by making the protectors circus freaks and the central conceit about them not knowing they were supposed to protect. In Seven Samurai it leads to some tense scenes – historically samurai hurt peasants and vice versa. There’s little trust. This doesn’t always pan out how you’d think.
It’s long, and I think some people put it too strongly when they say there’s not a minute you’re not engaged. There were a few I was not engaged. But once things come together in the second half and there are payoffs for almost every build-up it makes a lot of sense and is really satisfying.