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West Side Story: What Fans Are Saying About Steven Spielberg’s Musical Remake

Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort in West Side Story
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios/ Disney)

When Steven Spielberg first began to talk about his desire to remake the iconic West Side Story, people weren’t quite sure what to make of it. While Spielberg’s talent is undeniable, taking on such a project, and a musical to boot, was something fans and critics were far from convinced would work. However, critics have been calling the remake a masterpiece, and as it turns out, fans feel much the same way.

While the new West Side Story didn’t exactly set the box office on fire, it seems that those who have seen the movie are just as in love with everything about it as the critics. It’s difficult to undersell the love affair that social media is having with this movie. 

Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler as Tony and Maria in West Side Story Tonight balcony scene

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

The New West Side Story Is Even Better Than The Original, Maybe?

One of the biggest strikes against a new West Side Story going in was the fact that we already had a film version of the musical that people already loved. It’s one of the movies that a lot of people think is perfect. So the highest possible praise one could give the new movie is that some fans think the new West Side Story is actually better than the first film. 

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If there’s a strike against the original, it’s that many of the actors playing Puerto Rican characters are actually white, including Natalie Wood as Maria. Her performance is excellent, but it may be the fact that the casting was a bit more on point this time around that makes this West Side Story sing just a little bit sweeter. 

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Whatever the reason, all any remake or adaptation can ever hope to do is add something new to the conversation; to cause an audience to look at the material in a new way or find a new theme to explore. Whatever West Side Story did right, it did it perfectly, giving people everything they wanted. 

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While there’s clearly a lot to love about the new West Side Story, there are two people who are getting most of the credit for the movie’s success on screen.  

Ariana DeBose in West Side Story.

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Rachel Zegler Is Great, But Ariana DeBose Is The Real Star 

There’s really nothing that any fans are criticizing  about West Side Story, but there are a few things that are receiving specific praise. Chief among them are the performances of both Rachel Zegler and Ariana DeBose. Zegler was the one that seemed to be getting most of the press before the film’s release, but now most of the attention seems to belong to DeBose. 

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Ariana DeBose is a relative newcomer whose biggest performance to date might be her role as “the bullet” in the original Broadway cast of Hamilton. Millions have now seen her there since the play arrived on Disney+, but she’s now absolutely exploded since then. 

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To be clear, nobody has forgotten Rachel Zegler. Fans are in agreement that she is also amazing in her performance, and she’s getting the awards recognition to show it, but if there’s anything in West Side Story that is even better than the sound of Zegler’s voice, it’s Debose.  

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However, while there might be a couple of standout performances, nearly everything in West Side Story is receiving praise, and there’s really only one person who can get credit for that.  

Rachel Zegler as Maria in West Side Story

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Steven Spielberg Has Truly Done It Again

To say that Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest film directors who has ever lived is not exactly a controversial statement. We all know Spielberg is amazing. From the pulp action of Indiana Jones to the heavy drama of Schindler’s List, we know what this director is capable of doing. 

Having said that, while many of Spielberg’s recent films have received critical praise, just as many have been far from as warmly embraced. Few have been quite as overwhelming praised as West Side Story. There seems to be a general agreement that not only is this a great movie, but it’s one of the absolute best from this man. 

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Steven Spielberg has been nominated for the Oscar for Best Director five times, and those five movies (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan) would probably be in everybody’s top five ranking of his movies. If the response to West Side Story is any indication, Spielberg may be getting ready for a sixth nomination, and your top five Spielberg movies might need to be reordered.  

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Even with everything that we knew Steven Spielberg was capable of, there were still questions regarding his ability to handle a full musical. Those questions have been answered. Steven Spielberg truly can do it all, and what’s more, this might be the greatest work of his career. 

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It has to be said that the social media traffic regarding West Side Story doesn’t seem quite as plentiful as it does for other major releases. It’s clear that while those that have seen the movie love it, a lot of people have simply not seen it. Perhaps this will help convince those of you who didn't check out the movie to fix that minor oversight. 

Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.